The main problem with polls, especially in relatively low-turnout elections, is that the accuracy of their results depends on a correct guess — often guided by historical data — at the number of people who will vote. The people who predicted that John Kerry would win in 2004 didn't count on the religious right swarming the ballot box, and the people who predicted that Hillary Clinton or John Edwards would take the Iowa caucuses in 2007 didn't realize that Obama would set historical turnout records.
Which all means strange things can happen on Election Day, and a new Washington Post survey outlines one possibility:
A major survey conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University found that 80 percent of black Democrats are as interested or more interested in the midterms than they were in the 2008 presidential election, when their enthusiasm helped propel Barack Obama into office.
This year, 62 percent of all black Democrats say they're likely to encourage others to support certain candidates, according to the survey, compared with 47 percent of white Democrats and 57 percent of all Republicans.
The Post notes that African-Americans usually hold back during midterms, but that all evidence indicates that this year is different, and the White House knows it, with Obama making a specific appeal to black voters last Sunday in Philadelphia, and Michelle Obama hitting urban centers.
While this appeal may not mean much for moderate white Democrats in rural swing districts, it may be the key to holding on to Senate seats or governors' mansions in states such as Missouri, where a victory would depend on incredibly high turnout in St. Louis.