Presidential elections tend to suck up all the air in an election season, and the (probable) Romney-Obama race is already the dominant plotline seven months away from Election Day. But as the tribulations of Obama's first three years and office made evident, the fate of Congressional races often dictate the direction of policy.
Republicans' gains in the 2010 midterms paired with a year of redistricting has likely entrenched their House majority for at least another term. And Democrats entered the year with an uphill battle in the Senate. The party must defend 23 seats compared to just 10 for Republicans.
Emory University political scientist and all-around smart dude Alan Abramowitz is out with a model predicting the upcoming Congressional elections that offers grim news for Democrats. Abramowitz predicts that Democrats will gain only a few seats in the House—two or three he says—but are on track to possibly lose the Senate majority. Abramowitz's model has Republicans with an "expected pickup of 6-7 seats." With the Senate's current 53-47 split favoring Democrats, those gains would put Republicans right on the edge of installing Mitch McConnell as majority leader. Seven seats would be enough to take the majority and six could also get them there if they manage to win the presidency and have a Republican vice-president to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Abramowitz himself notes that the Senate model "should be interpreted cautiously because the Senate model has a fairly large error term due to the small number of seats in each election." I'd also point to scattered pieces of evidence that have titled in favor of Democrats. I noted a few bright spots at the beginning of the month and Democrats, despite the overall disadvantage in seats up for grabs, have a few strong opportunities to spots away from Republicans. Three of the eight seats Real Clear Politics lists as toss-ups are held by Republicans, and a PPP poll from last week had liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren opening up a five-point lead over Scott Brown in the Massachusetts campaign.