The Republican boom fizzles
It's easy to see why the pundits expect the Republicans to do well. They're the out party, which usually does well in off-year elections, especially in the sixth year of a two-term Presidency. The low turnout in off-year elections favors Republicans anyway, 2010 being a dramatic example. Most of the Senate seats being contested this year are held by Democrats, which means that only the Republicans have many chances for picking up new seats. The economic recovery from the 2008 Bush crash is still sluggish. The President's approval ratings are still poor. Everything favors the Republicans.
But so far the actual polls aren't looking so promising, certainly not for their dream of winning a Senate majority. Intrepid hog-deballer Joni Ernst is behind in Iowa, if only a little. We lead in Michigan, New Hampshire, and Colorado, which is expected, but also in Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska, and Kentucky, which is less expected. (I'd particularly enjoy seeing Mitch McConnell, the man who declared that his party's top goal would be to make Obama a one-term President, voted out while Obama is still in office.) Granted, a lot of these leads are narrow, but it's not looking like a Republican wave.
For Governorships, the Republicans leads are surprisingly narrow in solid-red states like Oklahoma and Kansas, where even many prominent Republicans have turned against the execrable Brownback. In New Mexico Susana Martinez is tied with her Democratic challenger -- and Wisconsin's dreadful Scott Walker could be in trouble (Martinez and Walker are sometimes touted as 2016 Presidential candidates). Crist is ahead in Florida. The numbers in Texas don't look as good, but we always knew that was a long shot (when the Republicans can't hold Texas any more, we'll know they're finished), and Davis's large lead among women could indicate the start of a cultural shift there -- women and men live in the same families, and people discuss politics.
And traditional assessments of the fundamentals fail to consider the teabaggers' rage at the Republican establishment for defeating their flaming-nutball primary challengers in Kentucky, South Carolina, and especially Mississippi. The party establishment created a monster and it is now turning on them, with results that are hard to predict.
Gerrymandering will probably let the Republicans keep the House (if they lose that, then the final collapse Booman describes has likely begun). But even so, this year looks a lot less bad than anticipated -- and in 2016 all the fundamentals will favor our side, while the Republicans may well be even more extremist and divided than today.