Is this a case of life copying art a blog column? Yesterday this column ran about the changing political conventional wisdom about mid-terms 2010, and today The Hill reports that while Democrats could still lose the House, it’s not a done deal yet:

In a poll of 12 hotly contested races that could decide who controls the House in the 112th Congress, Republican challengers are beating freshman Democrats in 11 — and in the last one, the race is tied.

But The Hill/America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) poll also detected a glimmer of light for Democrats; not one of the 12 Republican challengers has reached 50 percent, and half of them have leads so small that they are within the margin of error.

The 12 districts this week are the first of 42 in The Hill/ANGA polls that will be conducted in the next four weeks. The first week’s focus is on freshmen, next week’s is on open seats, the following week’s is on two-term incumbents, and finally, in the week before the election, the polls will be in districts of long-term incumbents thought to be in trouble.

“This is a particularly volatile set of districts,” said pollster Mark Penn. “Overall, we see a strong Republican trend in these districts, but given where these numbers are, the races haven’t broken yet.”

Republicans need to pick up a net 39 seats to win control of the House.

Despite leads for Republican challengers, the large number of undecided voters in most of these contests suggests they are still up for grabs.

The Hill notes that the problem for the Dem incumbents is that approval ratings for Barack Obama and Congress are now down so low there is a virtually a “WELCOME TO THE SOUTH POLE” sign in view.

But it’s clear the Democrats could still pull victory out of the jaws of historical defeat if a)enough registered Democratic voters decide to vote b)enough registered Democratic voters decide to vote for Democrats, c)the party’s liberal progressive base that in other times in political history decided to “punish the party” stays home and lets the GOP be swept to victory and take over key levers of power in Congress.

Those are still big “ifs.” And if reports such as this can help motivate Democrats to vote, but they can also help motivate GOPers, Tea Party movement voters, and independents who’ve soured on Obama and the Dems to get out and vote as well.

But it’s clear that the old conventional wisdom (the Democrats will lose the House and possibly the Senate in a historical GOP blowout) is being displaced amid signs that the races are indeed tightening.

The copyrighted cartoon by RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, is licensed to run on TMV in full. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.

UPDATE: Could this be a factor in what is apparently happening as well?

Republican congressional leaders have sought to frame the upcoming midterms as a referendum on Democrats and their ability to govern, but six in 10 Americans have a negative view of the very GOP chiefs making the argument. That level of GOP unpopularity leaves the Democrats some campaign leverage against their GOP critics with less than a month to go before Election Day.

The latest Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, conducted with the Pew Research Center, shows that Republican leaders on Capitol Hill drew a spare 24 percent approval rating, down from 33 percent in July, while their disapproval figure had climbed up 7 points from 53 percent, tied for their worst performance in the nine-plus years since Pew has asked about House and Senate barons in both parties.

Democratic leaders did slightly better with a 30/53 approval/disapproval split on the same question, leaving their net margin roughly unchanged since July, when the GOP had outperformed them. Still, their approval rating was their lowest since at least June 2001.

While party leaders had little to fear from their own party faithful, their approval ratings are down in the dumps among independents, with one one-fifth of them approving of the ways party leaders were doing their jobs.

When voters want to throw some bums out oftentimes they do so because the alternative isn’t terrific but it’s not really negative. Here, the alternative is more negative. So the question is whether disgust and disappointment over the Democrats will trump the fact that some voters feel both parties reek and the Republicans smell worse.

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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