In last lap of 2014 campaign, it's all about that base ... turnout

The candidates have debated, the ads have squawked endlessly from TV screens and computer monitors -- and now, it’s all about that turnout.

Just four days before the election, polls indicate Republicans have a decent shot at a Senate takeover. They need six seats to reclaim the majority, though the 10 or so competitive races are still very close.

Midterm history shows, though, that the party that does not control the White House typically has the edge in getting voters to the polls. And political analysts say this year is no different.

"In terms of turnout, I'd rather be [the Republicans] than the Democrats," said Kyle Kondik, with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Poll after poll has shown Republicans leading on the question of voter enthusiasm, which can translate to voter base turnout. A Fox News poll released Tuesday showed 45 percent of Republicans are “extremely” interested in this election compared with 41 percent of Democrats (this showed the enthusiasm gap narrowing, however, from a prior poll).

Kondik said the historical trends are an important factor. “The midterm dynamic, that’s what sort of sets the overall mood of the election,” Kondik said, adding that the "turnout operation" on Election Day plays off of that.

Plus he said the party has fielded a stronger crop of candidates than in the past couple elections.

Democrats, though, maintain that the doomsday predictions for their party are overblown, and they remain just as competitive. They cite, in part, early voter returns -- though those numbers have shown a mixed picture, and a newsflash on The Drudge Report late Friday claimed fresh statistics show a Republican advantage.

“All the early voting signs show that contrary to the D.C. conventional wisdom, there is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for voting this election and that Democrats are expanding the electorate to include midterm drop-off voters who didn’t vote in 2010,” Justin Barasky, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told

One recent poll showed turnout may not be that great for either party. A Gallup poll conducted in late September predicted voter turnout would be much lower than the previous two elections.

"With little hope of 2014 being a 'change' election -- even if Republicans win the Senate, the GOP-controlled Congress will have to contend with a Democratic president -- more Americans appear to be willing to sit out this fall's elections than was the case in the previous two midterm election years," Gallup said.

One way to get a sneak peek at voter turnout is indeed to look at early voting. Those numbers usually favor Democrats, who historically have a much stronger early voting operation than Republicans -- Republicans claim they're doing better this year in several key states.

An examination of early voting numbers from four close Senate races shows the Democrats, though, still have the edge. The number of votes cast by Democrats was approximately 10 percent or more higher than votes cast by Republicans in Louisiana, Colorado and North Carolina. Democrats also held a slight edge in Iowa, but Republicans took a short-lived lead in early voting in the state last week for the first time in modern history. Iowa’s Republican Party touted that as a victory, and a spokesman said it has only added to the party’s confidence.

“The gains by Republicans this year in early voting add another reason for Democrats to be down in the dumps,” Jahan Wilcox told in a statement.

Kondik cautioned against putting too much faith in early voting, noting more and more people from both parties are bound to vote early as time goes on because it is becoming more popular.

“Both sides are spinning the numbers, but there are reasons to think both are doing well,” he said.

He said at this stage in the game it's all about the turnout operation, and both parties are claiming they are ahead.

"Democrats are saying that their turnout operation will allow them to win North Carolina, Iowa," he said. "We’ll see who is right."