Election 2014: Latest Polling Tilts Redder

Scroll down the RealClearPolitics poll summary for the last few days, and you see a lot more red than blue in the latest surveys released for Senate, House and governor's races. Many races are very close in all three categories, but over the past two weeks the GOP position -- particularly in House and Senate races -- has generally improved.

Governor's races are the biggest crapshoot. RealClearPolitics counts 14 races as tossups: Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Hawaii, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, and Michigan. Since eight of the 14 are currently in Republican hands, this may be the biggest opportunity for gains for Democrats. There is little chance Democrats will gain seats in either house of Congress.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now focusing on only 25 races, and 18 of them are seats currently held by Democrats. If the Democrats won all 25, they would still be 10 seats short of the 218 seats needed to take control of the House. A more likely result at this point, given that Democrats are on defense in most of the  competitive races, is for the GOP to hit 240 or more, maybe even to hit a number higher than the party has achieved at any time in the past 65 years.

The RCP House summary, as well as those of Larry Sabato and Stuart Rothenberg, suggests that more Democratic-held seats are likely to shift than Republican-held seats, since more of the tossup races are for Democratic-held seats. As an example, today there are no Republicans in the U.S. House from any of the six New England states -- but Republicans are competitive in both New Hampshire districts, Maine 2, and Massachusetts 6, the last two being open seats. The GOP also has excellent pickup opportunities in Illinois 10 and 12, and has a decent chance in Iowa 1 and 2, two seats thought safe for Democrats a few months back. These are districts in states where Republicans have underperformed in recent cycles. With unhappiness with Congress expressed quite strongly in every poll, the  few dozen House districts that are competitive after the last post-census redistricting (which was performed skillfully by both parties where they had the opportunity) could well see a lot of turnover.

The greatest media attention has been devoted to the Senate, where the Republicans, after losing at least six winnable races in 2010 and 2012 (Colorado and Delaware in 2010; North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, and Indiana in 2012), now seem poised to win at least the six net pickups to finally get over the top to 51.

The latest figures suggest that as many as 13 seats could swing from one party to the other or to independents -- 10 of them now held by Democrats, three by Republicans. Since virtually all analysts concede that Republicans will win in open seat races in West Virginia (Shelley Moore Capito against Natalie Tennant) and Montana (Steve Daines versus Amanda Curtis), the GOP could wind up with anywhere from 44 to 55 seats. Nate Silver currently puts the chances of the GOP hitting only 44 at 0.3%, but at 61% for winning a majority of 51 or more, and  52% for realizing 52 or more.

While most of the competitive races still show leads of only five points or fewer, there have still been noticeable changes in the landscape the last few weeks. Republicans are in much stronger shape, building leads of two to five points in Colorado (Cory Gardner against Mark Udall), Alaska (Dan Sullivan against Mike Begich), and Iowa (Joni Ernst against Bruce Braley) and moving closer in North Carolina (Thom Tillis versus Kay Hagan) and New Hampshire (Scott Brown versus Jeanne Shaheen) -- probably both are now one- to three-point leads for the incumbent Democrats.

Republicans have maintained a steady lead in Kentucky (Mitch McConnell versus Alison Lundergan Grimes), Arkansas (Tom Cotton versus Mark Pryor), and Louisiana in a head-to-head match for a likely runoff in December (Bill Cassidy versus Mary Landrieu). In a multi-candidate race with two Republicans, Landrieu has a small lead but is well short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. In a one-on-one runoff, Cassidy has extended his lead week after week, reaching 9 points in the latest poll.

On the other hand, three races are surprisingly problematic for the Republicans at this stage, given Republican strength in all of them in recent cycles.