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“Inside the Beltway, there is this conventional wisdom that nationally Republicans are up and they have all this momentum. But look, campaigns matter and so do candidates,” said Ryan Rudimor, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“What we are seeing in the polls now is that there is a generic Republican and a generic Democrat ballot, but in these races there are not a generic Republican and generic Democrat on the ballot,” he said.

The majority party also has advantages in campaign cash, and campaign operatives say they’ve also been preparing for a hard fight all along.

The DCCC went on the offensive last week by releasing a list of Republicans who have had serious questions raised about them in the local media, ranging from failure to pay taxes, to arrest warrants and “even a candidate lying about their role in driving a truck off the road because it was carrying negative mail pieces from a rival campaign.”

Democrats also are counting on the internal battle for the direction of the Republican Party to push some voters away from the GOP.

Deirdre Murphy, a spokeswoman for the DSCC, said with “tea party”-backed candidates winning some Republican primaries, the GOP will be hard-pressed to win some seats that should have been easier. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s loss to Sarah Palin-backed John Miller in Alaska is the latest example of “the Republican Party cannibalizing itself,” she said.

Mr. Kaine spoke similarly Sunday, telling Fox News host Chris Wallace that “generic is one thing,” but “Republicans are putting up candidates that are quite far out of the mainstream in terms of should we have passed the Civil Rights Act or does Social Security need to exist. We’re going to win some surprising races, Chris, because of who the other guys have put up.”