Many Insiders on both sides argued that the likelihood of a GOP Senate takeover was largely a matter of math. "Virtually all of the vulnerability is on the Democratic side this cycle," said one Republican Insider. "Of 10 to 12 competitive races, two are GOP seats, and we only need to pick up four."
"This has less to do with the current bad environment for the Dems than it does with the great playing field," agreed another. "North Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Montana seem set up perfectly."
A Democratic Insider echoed the point, saying, "Too many tough states, too many tough races, too many incumbents to defend."
Republicans also pointed to the Democrats' wave of Senate victories in 2006, arguing that 2012 may reflect a swinging back of that pendulum. "Republicans badly underperformed in 2000 Senate elections and then absurdly underperformed in 2006," said one GOP Insider. "A simple regression to the mean would produce a GOP majority. Add in the president's unpopularity, and it looks very good."
Another Republican agreed, saying, "The swing in 2006 brought in many red-state Democrats who will have a tough time defending their seats in an anti-Democratic year."
Democratic Insiders mostly pinned their Senate hopes on future developments. "A lot is riding on the economy improving and the jobless rate declining before the election," said one.
"I think that after we have the jobs plan, deficit super committee, and 2012 budget fights, [Republicans] will be weakened and provide a strong contrast for Dems," another offered hopefully.
Among some Democratic Insiders, optimism was even lower when it came to retaking the House. "We'll be lucky to be able to hold a caucus," said one particularly gloomy Democrat.
"Redistricting helps a little," said another, "but the president's numbers, especially in swing districts, doom Dems."
Republican Insiders saw a sign of the times in the results of the special election to replace former Rep. Anthony Weiner in New York.
"Loss of the Weiner seat tells me there is less than a zero chance of Dems retaking the House," said one Republican strategist.
"NY-09 is to 2012 what Scott Brown, Chris Christie, and Bob McDonnell were to 2010," said another. "Republicans will lose very few seats."
Some Insiders on both sides did acknowledge that an angry electorate could mean a rough ride for House incumbents, the majority of whom are Republicans.
"House Republicans have done everything imaginable to put the House in play in less than a year," said one Democratic Insider. "They are highly unpopular and so are their policies."
"It's a 50-50 proposition," said another. "The American people are mad and may throw everyone out."
At least one Republican Insider agreed, saying, "Anti-incumbent anger is more of a threat to the R majority than specific policy wins and losses."
Nevertheless, another GOP respondent summed up the strengthening confidence of most Republicans that they will hold the Housethis way: "Anyone who believes the D's will win [back the House] should be searched for a controlled substance."
The National Journal Political Insiders Poll is a regular survey of political operatives, strategists, campaign consultants and lobbyists in both parties. Below are the names of the Political Insiders who are surveyed:
Democrats: Jill Alper, John Anzalone, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Matt Bennett, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Stephanie Bosh, Paul Brathwaite, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Guy Cecil, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Larry Cohen, Jerry Crawford, Brendan Daly, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Howard Dean, Scott DeFife, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, David Di Martino, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Patrick Dorton, Pat Dujakovich, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Jim Fleischmann, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Jeffrey Forbes, Vincent Frillici, Gina Glantz, Niles Godes, John Michael Gonzalez, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Larry Grisolano, Michael Gronstal, Lisa Grove, Marcia Hale, Jill Hanauer, Dick Harpootlian, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Doug Hattaway, Mike Henry, Karen Hicks, Leo Hindery Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Lisa Kountoupes, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Penny Lee, Chris Lehane, Jeff Link, Bob Maloney, Jim Manley, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Keith Mason, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Michael Meehan, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Michael Monroe, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O'Donnell, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, Tony Podesta, Jack Quinn, Larry Rasky, Mame Reiley, Ed Rendell, Steve Ricchetti, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, Ryan Rudominer, John Ryan, Michael Sargeant, Stephanie Schriock, Terry Shumaker, Sean Sinclair, Phil Singer, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Greg Speed, Darry Sragow, Ken Strasma, Doug Thornell, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Rick Wiener, James Williams, JoDee Winterhof, Brian Wolff, Jon Youngdahl, and Jim Zogby.
Republicans: Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Brian Baker, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Paul Bennecke, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Al Cardenas, Danny Carroll, Alex Castellanos, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Jonathan Collegio, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Jay Cranford, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Debi Durham, Sara Fagen, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Mindy Finn, Mindy Fletcher, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Bruce A. Gates, Sam Geduldig, Adam Geller, Benjamin Ginsberg, David Girard-diCarlo, Bill Greener, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Jim Innocenzi, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, Steven Law, George S. LeMieux, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Brian McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Lisa Camooso Miller, Tim Morrison, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Todd Olsen, Kevin O'Neill, Connie Partoyan, Dana Perino, Billy Piper, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Tom Reynolds, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Kevin Shuvalov, Don Sipple, Ken Spain, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Terry Sullivan, David Tamasi, Eric Tanenblatt, Richard Temple, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Stewart Verdery, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Lezlee Westine, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, Fred Wszolek, and Matthew Zablud.