WASHINGTON, Nov. 1
The back-of-the-envelope best case for Republicans is holding the House and Senate -- losing a net 12 seats in the House (and fortifying their majority with some party switchers) and a net 2 seats in the Senate.
The back-of-the-envelope best case for Democrats is winning control of both chambers -- taking between 30-43 Republican-held House seats and 6 Republican-held Senate seats, and not losing a single Democratic seat in either chamber.
The elements of Republicans achieving their best case:
Making the end-game wide message taxes, terror, and gay marriage.
Making the end-game targeted message taxes, terror, gay marriage, other social issues galore, liberal Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, and would-be Democratic committee chairs who happen to be liberal African-Americans. (Note the rising salience of "moral values" for voters in the GE/Dow Jones survey.)
The release of one terror tape.
As they did in 2004, per the Washington Post's saintly Dan Balz, finding "a way to excite and mobilize a fractured Republican base without triggering an even bigger turnout among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents that could cost his party the House or Senate."
(The Bush vs. Kerry redux rematch does that quite nicely, since the Right base loves it and most Democrats are not the biggest John Kerry fans -- and the psychology of it is huge, as Bill Clinton and Karl Rove can tell you. Bush -- and his rhetoric -- unite the Republican Party; Kerry -- and his rhetoric -- do not unite the Democrats.)
Final-days POTUS visits to Montana, Nevada, Missouri (two media markets), Colorado, Iowa, and Texas to remind Bush voters why they used to like him.
The classic "choice election" choice: the other guys would be worse.
The classic Bush-Cheney-Rove element: fear of the unknown -- you may not like us, but we've kept you safe.
Cut the distaff side of the gender gap, recover in the suburbs, and pick off seniors happy with the drug benefit.
Dow up; gas prices down.
Robo calls from 41 and 43 (and their First Ladies).
The 72-Hour turnout program and the potential myth that Democrats are fired up to actually vote.
Articles in the Old Media about how Democrats are promising to spend big money (Washington Post LINK) and about how powerful the Massachusetts delegation would be in Nancy Pelosi's House (Boston Globe LINK).
Trap/trick yet another Democrat or member of the media into a polarizing fight, to cement the base's rapture.
Drudge, Rush, Sean, Brit (and their ability to influence the Old Media storylines). LINK
Containing the wave so it turns out to be a series of individual political nightmares and not an unsurvivable tectonic confluence.
A political miracle. (Items not necessarily listed in the order required for success.)
The elements of Democrats achieving their best case:
Winning Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Montana, Rhode Island, Virginia, and either Missouri or Tennessee.
Winning a high percentage of the House seats in which the Republican candidate is currently at 45% or below.
Making the end-game wide and narrow messages Bush, Iraq, Bush, Iraq, change, Bush, Iraq.