They're whispering it, but House Republicans are beginning to think they just might have a chance.
After believing for months that a Democratic landslide was on the way, many Republicans are now daring to hope that they'll either keep the House majority or lose it by the slimmest of margins.
According to an informal poll of ten GOP House members, aides, and operatives two weeks before election day, neither party will have more than a five-seat majority. If it happens that way, the GOP will — against the odds — have overcome their own initially unenthusiastic base and seemingly boundless energy among Democrats essentially to fight to a draw.
The Senate battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh seems to have helped motivate GOP voters, along with ongoing job creation and economic growth that has given Republicans — and President Trump — something to crow about.
"For the first time in months, we have the wind at our backs. Now we have to figure out a way to keep it up for two weeks," said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund. "In the last 30 days, the president has done the hardest thing in American politics: to both excite and unite the Republican base."
Some of these positive signs can be seen in some of the individual House races around the country. Bliss mentioned in a recent memo that the group went back on the air to support Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, once considered a dead man walking but who has seen an uptick in polling in recent weeks. Also being helped is Maria Elvira Salazar — once a long shot for Florida's 27th Congressional District, which is being vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Salazar is running against Democrat Donna Shalala, a former top Clinton official and former University of Miami president, who has been unable to break away.
Despite growing GOP optimism, the prevailing view remains that Republicans will lose a very narrow bid to keep the House, meaning that any hope to keep the majority hinges on being mistake-free — and lucky — final weeks.
"I say we lose it narrowly. Retirements and the Pennsylvania map redrawing will come back to haunt us," said one GOP operative, noting that the best case scenario involves the party losing 18-20 seats from their 23-seat cushion. "We have to pitch a perfect game right now."
But Republicans are feeling more confident in certain pockets across the country, particularly in Orange County, Calif. One GOP operative involved in House races pointed to Young Kim in California's 39th District as a contest he feels good about, along with the races being run by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Jeff Denham.
They also believe a pair of incumbent GOP women, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., and Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif. — both of whom were counted out by many Republicans — are still in margin-of-error contests that could swing the party's way in two weeks. Democrats had previously pulled advertising out of Comstock's race, assuming it was over.
According to a new Washington Post poll released Tuesday, Democrats hold a 50-47 percent advantage in 69 battleground districts polled, 63 of which are held by Republicans and 48 that were won by President Trump in 2016. The same poll was 50-46 percent in favor of Democrats on Oct. 5.
Public polling also showed positive results for two Republicans who sit in toss-up seats. According to polls by the New York Times, Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., leads by 9 points over Brendan Kelly in Illinois' 12th Congressional District, while Rep. Scott Taylor, who represents part of coastal Virginia, holds a 3-point advantage over Elaine Luria.
A new Monmouth poll released Tuesday also shows Rohrabacher leading Democrat Harley Rouda by 2 points, while a Siena poll released Monday shows Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y., leading by a single point over Antonio Delgado.
According to the Post's poll, both sides have been energized by the Kavanaugh hearings, as 59 percent say they are more motivated by the battle to get to the polls. Prospects for the GOP started turning around right after the fight to put him on the court, when many Republicans said it brought their voters alive and narrowed a long-standing enthusiasm gap.
"That's the biggest thing. It's probably piqued GOP attention," said the GOP operative. "It brought them home earlier than they probably would have."