Republicans are worried that a turned-off electorate will stay home Tuesday and spell disaster for many GOP candidates.
"A low turnout doesn't help us," said Edward J. Rollins, co-chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee.Rollins' assessment was echoed by Norman Cummings, political director of the Republican National Committee, who said, "Those marginal voters are Republican-leaning voters in many key states."
Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, said the outlook for voter turnout is "a more iffy situation this year" than in most midterm elections. But he predicted that turnout on Tuesday would be about the same as four years ago.
In the 1986 midterm election, 36.4 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, the lowest turnout since 1942.
Gans said there has been a slight increase in Republican voter registration, but it might not translate into a larger Republican vote.
"My own guess is that overall, because of . . . taxes and an incipient recession, there'll be a decline of slight proportions despite the increase in registration in the Republican vote nationally," he said.
"You could have a phenomena in a number of places, the sort of lower middle class, urban ethnic who's been sort of a swing vote in recent elections coming back to the Democratic Party," Gans said. "That's what happened in the recession of 1982; it might happen with the fear of a recession plus the fairness issue this year."
A consistent theme in Democratic campaigns around the country has been to portray their candidates as advocates of economic fairness for all Americans and Republicans as protectors of the rich.
Rollins noted that younger voters are the most anti-tax group in the population and that a majority of Republicans today are under 40, while a majority of Democrats are over 40.
Those demographics bring together two factors that could give an edge to Democrats on Election Day.