Larry Sabato predicts the 2014 midterm elections will be sui generis and handicaps the results like this:
Last year, and even in the beginning of 2014, we and others were inclined to think that 2014 would be another wave midterm, like 2006 or 2010. After all, it’s the “sixth-year itch” of the Obama administration — always a dangerous time for the White House party — and President Obama’s popularity had been sinking well below the 50% level. Then there was the Senate map for 2014. Arguably, this year features the best lineup for the Republicans since 1980. Almost all — some would say all — of the GOP’s 15 Senate seats are either in the bag or will be by Election Day, owing to the Red nature of the states. By contrast, many of the 21 Democratic seats are located in Red or Purple states, some with shaky incumbents and others left vacant for easy Republican pickup. Finally, midterm turnout usually (not always) favors Republicans, with poor turnouts registered by Democratic-leaning groups such as minorities and the young versus decent turnouts by GOP cohorts, including whites and those over age 60.
Well, it’s late July, and so far at least, this election hasn’t gelled quite the way it earlier appeared on paper. President Obama’s popularity isn’t impressive, but his job approval seems to have stabilized in the low-to-mid 40s — not as bad as President Bush’s level in 2006 (about 37% approval roughly this time eight years ago). Several of the most vulnerable Democratic senators on the ballot are proving more durable than expected, fending off challenges or at least holding their own so far. In 2006, Democrats at this point were up double digits in most surveys of the House generic ballot, a poll measuring the general mood of the country that suggested not only Democratic gains in the House, but also the Senate. Four years ago, Republicans by this time had taken a three-point lead in the generic ballot surveys, a lead that would only grow. Now, Democrats retain a tiny, one-point edge.
Basically, he says that Republicans will hold the House and will pick up between 4 and 8 seats in the Senate. That translates into between 49 and 53 Republican seats in the next Senate. Since I’ve been predicting that Republicans will hold 50 seats in the next Senate which means that Democrats will retain control of that house, I still think it’s a pretty solid prediction.
I also think that barring some cataclysm turnout will be at record-breakingly low levels. That means there could be some surprises.