By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
GETTING UGLY. The marathon sprint to the Nov. 2 finish line is almost all over but for the prognosticating. There’s more than enough of that to go around, and despite the tightening of key House and Senate races in the final days, the overall landscape continues to look bleak for Democrats. A fresh USA Today/Gallup Poll finds that by as much as a 55 to 40 percent margin, likely voters said they plan to cast their ballot for a Republican candidate rather than a Democrat. As USA Today’s Susan Page points out that is a “more commanding lead than either party has held on the eve of a midterm contest in more than a generation.” A Pew poll released over the weekend also gave the GOP an edge, albeit by a somewhat smaller margin — 48 to 42 percent on the generic ballot. And a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 49 percent of likely voters prefer a GOP-controlled Congress compared to 43 percent who want Democrats in the driver’s seat. http://usat.ly/9cGan1
Democratic prospects for keeping control of the Senate remain brighter, although as ABC’s Rick Klein notes, “Republicans have put enough Democratic-held seats in play to make a power shift possible there as well.” More from Klein’s look at the lay of the land: “Republicans have positioned themselves to take advantage of nation-wide voter anger, in part by being just about everywhere in the nation, in both House and Senate races. There are 431 Republican House candidates on the ballot Tuesday; there are only 435 House districts total. In the Senate, a dozen Democratic-held seats are in play — more than enough, though with little margin for error, for the GOP to have a shot at the 10 seats the party needs to take power. Of course, the 100-plus House seats that are in play aren't distributed evenly. They fall into a few major categories that leave Republicans likely to take out some of the old, some of the new and several of the long-since blue.” http://bit.ly/d5UOBd
The New York Times’ Nate Silver lists “5 Reasons Republicans Could Do Even Better Than Expected” on Nov. 2, painting a grim picture of a doomsday scenario for Democrats that has them losing as many as 78 seats. No, it’s not reality yet, but Silver argues that it could be come Tuesday night if the GOP can take advantage of a perfect political storm that includes “Downballot and cross-ballot effects,” if “Unlikely voters voted — and they voted Republican,” “The incumbent rule, or something like it, makes a comeback,” we experience what he calls the “The Scott Brown effect,” (Republicans manage to pull off upset victories in Democratic-leaning areas) or “Likely voter models could be calibrated to the 2006 and 2008 elections, which were unusually good for Democrats” (in other words, will Democrats vote in smaller numbers than the poll modeling has predicted so far?). http://bit.ly/apxOyX
NOTED: Get-out-the-voter operations were in high gear over the weekend, and Democratic Party officials say that Organizing for America volunteers and organizers made 3.1 million voter contacts on Saturday alone. Meanwhile, the RNC is reporting an election season total of 41 million voter contacts by volunteers.
DUELING CHAIRMEN. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele cautioned that Republicans shouldn’t get too cocky even if they enjoy big wins on Tuesday night while his Democratic counterpart, Time Kaine, criticized members of his own party for running away from the Democratic agenda this election season. Both party chairmen sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. From George’s report: “Michael Steele agreed with what Jeb Bush told the NY Times — that the GOP’s expected gains tomorrow are, ‘not a validation of the Republican Party at all.’ ‘I think there is a degree of truth to that,’ the RNC chairman told me. ‘I think the American people right now are much more skeptical of the direction the president and Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid are taking the country. But they also have some concerns about the direction that Republicans will then lead when we take control of the congress in 2011.’ … Acknowledging his own problems DNC Chairman Tim Kaine said President Obama knows about ‘the need going forward to make some adjustments and corrections. And you will see those play out over the course next few weeks.’ And both chairmen fired back at their own party — Kaine pointed fingers at Democrats who have run against their party and ‘who’ve kind of been holding their own accomplishments at arm’s length.’” http://bit.ly/blF09n
NEXT STOP, GRIDLOCK. ABC’s Matthew Jaffe takes a look ahead at what happens after all is said and done on Tuesday night, and it’s not pretty. The political forecast, according to Jaffe, “Gridlock with a Chance of Shutdown.” More from his Congressional crystal ball: “With Republicans set to win seats in the House and the Senate – likely outright control of the former and possibly even the latter, too — the Democrats' solid majority on Capitol Hill seems certain to become a thing of the past. And with it, analysts say, their ability to pass sweeping legislation such as the health care act and the Wall Street reform bill. ‘All the various political scenarios after Tuesday's election are equally slow and grinding,’ said Julian Zelizer, a professor and congressional expert at Princeton University. ‘If Democrats keep control of Congress, their margins will be very narrow and the Senate will only become more difficult to govern because the majority will be much smaller. If Republicans take control of Congress, that will make for real gridlock because if you have Congress divided with the White House's position, there will be very little possibility for agreement on any of the major issues.’” In recent days both parties have used the prospect of such a deadlock as a means of encouraging voters to support them on Tuesday.” http://bit.ly/blNZbp
More political predictions from ABC’s John Berman, Amy Walter and George Stephanopoulos on “GMA” at 6:45’s countdown to Election Day. http://bit.ly/as8RZs
VOTE 2010: ABC VOICES. ABC News has lined up an all-star panel of correspondents and political experts to weigh in on the results during our election night coverage, anchored by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. Between now and Election Day, we’ve been bringing you insights from our panelists. Today ABC News contributor Cokie Roberts weighs in:
Cokie Roberts: “When Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House in 1995, he didn’t move into the suite of offices just vacated by Tom Foley, who had not only lost his position as speaker but also his seat in Congress. But Foley’s humiliation wasn’t the reason the new speaker declined to occupy the sizeable piece of Capitol real estate the Washington Democrat had left behind. Gingrich was simply exercising his prerogative to choose the office he wanted and he knew the one occupied by the just retired Republican leader Bob Michel, with a sweeping view of the Mall from its private balcony, was far nicer than Foley’s. How did the minority leader end up with better digs than the speaker, I wondered aloud one day? Gingrich the historian delighted in telling me the story.
“It seems that after the Republican wave election of 1946 Sam Rayburn gave up that office to Joe Martin, the new Republican speaker. Then two years later, when a Democratic wave swept the House, the men switched offices again. After the 1952 election the moving boxes once more crossed the Capitol as Martin again assumed the Speakership. Two years later it was Rayburn’s turn again. But this time the practical old Texan told Martin to stay put. President Eisenhower would be up for re-election in 1956 and would likely bring a Republican Congress with him, Rayburn figured, so why bother to move?
“When the Democrats surprised him and won, Rayburn was too much of a gentleman (behind his somewhat dour exterior, Mr. Sam could be a sweetheart) to dislodge his Republican friend from Massachusetts. The rooms in the West Front of the Capitol became the territory of the minority leader for forty years (the speaker moved into the new East Front when it was expanded in the late 50s) until the next Republican speaker, Newt Gingrich, and every speaker since.
“If Nancy Pelosi’s forced to move out next January should Speaker John Boehner comfortably settle in or should he keep a few boxes packed and ready to move out in a couple of years? Are we in for a series of waves washing over Washington? Does the fact that independents make up the largest group in the electorate mean that Congress will swing back and forth between parties in election after election? Or we living through a volatile time before the voters decide on one party or the other? Beats the heck out of me. And none of us will know that answer come Wednesday morning.”
CLOSING ARGUMENTS. Candidates have been making their final pitches to voters on the stump and in television commercials, and we’ve been taking a look at some of those “closing arguments” here in the Note. Today George Stephanopoulos, Amy Walter and John Berman talked to University of Wisconsin Professor Ken Goldstein, who studies campaign ads, about final-pitch television spots. “I think there’s this lore that the last weekend you use your killer argument,” Goldstein said. “The fact of the matter is very few campaigns are decided in the last weekend. … But still politics is this weird business where you spend a lot of your money and most of your ads when everyone’s already made their decisions.” More of Goldstein’s insights on #GMA645 today: http://bit.ly/94JZmn
NOTED: The New York Times’ Ashley Parker takes a closer look at some of the themes of the final campaign ads: “Republicans especially are running as outsiders and pushing a message of bringing change to Washington. Carly Fiorina, the Republican Senate candidate in California, has a closing ad that talks ominously about 'the legacy of Barbara Boxer,' the incumbent senator and Ms. Fiorina’s Democratic opponent, before a narrator says, 'We can change Washington, but not unless we change the people we send there.' … Democrats, too, are doing a final anti-Washington dance, promising to 'shake up Washington' if elected, in the case of West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, and talking about their ties to their home states.” http://nyti.ms/daqpkr
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter moderate an election eve discussion with Democratic National Committee Communications Director Brad Woodhouse and the Republican National Committee’s Doug Heye. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
Keep your eye on ABC’s updated House, Senate and governor’s race maps right here:http://bit.ly/cRwPpH
UPDATED ABC iPAD APP IS HERE: Just in time for the elections, introducing the updated ABC News iPad app! It includes great features including an interactive map that will show real time results on election night and the "What If?" game in which user can select the races they think could tip the balance of power in the House and Senate. You can start the game with ABC news race ratings and then predict your own winners and losers. On election night continue to play along, and watch the returns come in.How to get it? Download the app free from the iTunes store.
PALIN NON GRATA? Is the GOP getting ready to try to push out Sarah Palin? Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei are hearing rumblings: “Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. Interviews with advisers to the main 2012 presidential contenders and with other veteran Republican operatives make clear they see themselves on a common, if uncoordinated, mission of halting the momentum and credibility Palin gained with conservative activists by plunging so aggressively into this year’s midterm campaigns. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.” http://politi.co/cGNIQe
REID UPBEAT. Though he’s facing the toughest re-election challenge of his career, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is putting his best foot forward in the final days of the campaign. ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Gregory Simmons have set up shop in Nevada through Election Day, and over the weekend they caught up with Reid: "I feel good, to be honest with you," he said. "I have a lot of energy physically, emotionally and I'm very happy with the campaign where we are." … A recent Mason-Dixon poll showed Reid is more unpopular than ever, carrying an unfavorability rating of 56 percent compared with 39 percent for [Sharron] Angle. … After commenting Angle was at the bottom of the rung among opponents he has faced in his long career, Reid said, "But for the economy, it wouldn't be a contest." http://bit.ly/cvazs6
ON THE TRAIL. First Lady Michelle Obama is in Nevada to campaign for Sen. Reid today, and later she heads to Pennsylvania to get-out-the-vote for Democratic Senate contender Joe Sestak. Vice President Joe Biden heads to Burlington, Vt. to stump for gubernatorial candidate Peter Shumlin, followed by a visit to Wilmington, Del. where he will campaign for a slate of Democratic candidates. House Republican Leader John Boehner rallies voters in Ohio.
@mitchellreports: Overnight surprise: Dino Rossi edges up if Patty Murray doesnt hold on dems could see a hurricane on senate side too
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