The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday August 15th

Polls predict Republican surge in today's midterm elections

Midterms viewed as a referendum on Obama

In today’s midterm elections, voters will decide whether the Democratic Party was successful in putting its 2008 campaign rhetoric of hope and change into action.

An anti-incumbent sentiment combined with a nationwide Republican surge is expected to cause many Democrats in the U.S. House of Representative and Senate to lose their seats, handing the reins of the Democrat-controlled Congress back to the Republicans.

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“Frankly, the only surprise we could see is if Democrats manage to hold onto the majority in both houses,” said Dean Debnam, president of left-leaning think tank Public Policy Polling.

“But it’s pretty clear that’s not going to happen – we’re definitely going to have a Republican majority in the House.”

In North Carolina, the Republican wave has shaken up several House races and helped U.S. Sen. Richard Burr open up a comfortable lead against his Democratic challenger, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, said Chris Hayes, senior legislative analyst at John W. Pope Civitas Institute.

Marshall isn’t the only Democrat in North Carolina who’s hurting. Incumbent Democrats across the state are facing unusually tight races for their seats, especially U.S. Reps. Larry Kissell, Bob Etheridge and Chapel Hill’s David Price.

Rep. Price has felt the Republican push in the form of B.J. Lawson, the same opponent he defeated handily in 2008. But that was a Democratic year and Lawson is a more viable candidate this time, Hayes said.

“Lawson’s definitely improved, he’ll make things more interesting this year,” Hayes said. “But if he gets within 10 percentage points of Price, it’ll show how deep the Republican wave is this year because it was nowhere near that in 2008.”

That wave should help Republican candidates gain the 40 seats needed to gain the majority in the House — and many political experts predict Democrats could lose as many as 60 seats.

If the Republicans gain that number, it will be the most the party has sent to Washington in any election in the past 80 years, said Scott Rasmussen, president and CEO of Rasmussen Reports, a polling think tank.

In the Senate, where Republicans would need to take over 10 seats for the majority, close races in West Virginia, Washington and California will likely determine whether Democrats hold onto the majority.

Burr and Marshall’s race was also predicted to be one of the closest before the race began. That changed when Burr tapped into his large war chest to produce several statewide television ads, which expanded his lead in September and October.

“Marshall never really galvanized support or raised the money needed to win an election,” Hayes said. “It takes around a million dollars to get an ad on television for a week and she just doesn’t have that.”

It didn’t help that many North Carolina voters don’t agree with Democratic policies in Washington, Rasmussen said.

“Senate races are a team sport. People are looking to send someone to Washington to either support or oppose the administration’s policy,” Rasmussen said. “Right now in North Carolina, the president’s popularity is down, and that message hurts Democrats.”

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