A leading Republican pollster predicts a bleak day for Republicans at the polls Tuesday but says it will be less of a debacle now than it would have been 10 days ago.
Richard Wirthlin, who was President Ronald Reagan's pollster, said President Bush's pre-election emphasis on the Persian Gulf has combined with fading memories of the budget spectacle to boost the sagging GOP fortunes despite Bush's own 20-point drop in popularity.Wirthlin predicted Monday that Republicans will lose one Senate seat compared with two they would have lost in late October, 12 to 13 House seats compared with 17 they would have lost and two or three governorships compared with four they might have lost.
"I fully thought 10 days ago there would be an absolute blowout," he said. "Now I think Republicans will take hits but it won't be as bad."
Part of the reason, he said, is that with his polls showing 42 percent of American voters identifying themselves last week as Democrats and 40 percent saying they are Republicans (18 percent say they are independents), "they'll come home to their political base."
Wirthlin said that his polling from Oct. 1 through Nov. 4, squares with the findings of Peter Hart, a leading pollster for Democrats. Hart has been predicting no big changes in the Senate, only two or three more Democratic governors in control of big states and says Democrats will be lucky to pick up five to 10 seats in the House.
Wirthlin says that Bush's popularity has risen from the low 50 percent range to the mid-50s as he has hit the campaign trail and switched his rhetoric to the Gulf. Wirthlin says his polling shows that almost 70 percent of Americans expect a shooting war to break out.