I asked a very politically astute old friend who writes about electoral politics for a living about the prospects for 2006. He made three points:
1. The polling numbers show dissatisfaction with the Congress comparable to 1994.
2. The fact that the Democrats in Congress aren’t any more popular than the Republicans may not matter: the Republicans weren’t any more popular than the Democrats as late as the end of October in 1994. Discontent is bad for the “in” party.
3. BUT the Republicans had a big advantage in 1994 that the Democrats don’t have today: large numbers of seats that presented good targets. There’s no contemporary equivalent of the large numbers of Southern Democrats holding seats in districts that, by 1994, had been trending strongly Republican for years.
Of course, this analysis doesn’t figure in any damage to the GOP from Katrina or from any of the currently-brewing scandals. But right now, my friend is betting on Democratic gains but not a takeover of either House.