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I looked at all national elections since 1946, paying particular attention to the midterm elections.  This is of particular interest because of what the Dems might be facing in the Fall elections.  Based upon my viewing of history

1. What is the average number of seats that the President's party loses in a midterm election.

Starting from 1946 24.4
Starting from 1970 19.1
Starting from 1990 15.8

The lesson is that more recently the seats that are lost diminishes significantly from what it was at the middle part of the last century.  In fact the only two times that the President's party gained seats since 1946 were in the recent midterms (1998, 2002).

2.  The five worst cases of the President's party losing seats in the midterm is below

Year    Result            Reason  
1946  Reps +55          Labor unrest, Truman not demobilizing fast enough
1994  Reps +54          Dems fail to pass health care, Reps contract with America
1974  Dems +49         Watergate
1958  Dems +49         Eisenhower blamed for Russian space suceess, bad economy
1966  Reps +47          Unrest about Vietnam War, rioting in streets

You can't find any instance where passing something caused a wave election.  Generally what causes problems for the President's party in midterm elections is: economy, corruption, inertia.

Interestingly in only 3 of those 5 wave elections (1974, 1958, 1966), was predictive of the following Presidential election. And each of those Presidential elections was very close.  And the 1946 midterm was not AT ALL predictive of the 1948 election, where not only did Truman win but Dems won 75 additional Congressional seats.  Truman campaigned against a "do nothing" Congress.

3. The most important/controversial piece of legislation during this post World War 2 period was the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  

This was filibustered (real filibusters not like the phony kind they have today) for 57 days. It finally passed on July 2, 1964.  Democrats started that Congress with 259 seats.  What hell did they pay for going against their own constituency and doing the right thing?

The Dems WON 36 additional seats, bringing their total to 295 Congressional seats, which is the high water mark for either party since 1936.

Certainly some of the reason the Reps lost was because they nominated the polarizing Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide.  

However I might argue that one party's success causes the other party to do crazy things. (similar to what we are seeing today)

Also winning a Presidential landslide doesn't always win you many seats. Republicans won landslides in 1972 (Nixon) and won just 12 House seats and in 1984 (Reagan) and won 16 House seats. And in both cases they had many more seat possibilities than the Dems did in 1964.

4. Based on history, a number of reps will lose their seats during the Obama Presidency.

History says that over time the President's party loses seats. While you can't fight the political undertow at least Dems will have voted and passed significant legislation.

President          Started     Ended   Change
Eisnhower             221     174        47
Kennedy/Johnson     263     243      20
Nixon/Ford             192     143        49
Carter                  292     242        50
Reagan                 192     175        17
Bush - 41                 175     176     -1
Clinton                  258     212        46
Bush - 43                221     178        43
Obama                  257

It is interesting that Dems (except Carter) started with about the same number of house seats.  Of course, the Dems of today are considerably more liberal than the Dems in earlier times.  It does help you admire the good work that LBJ did passing legislation.  Of course, the Reps were much more cooperative to work with.

2010 could be a midterm for the history books.  Fairly popular President, strong (comparatively) legislative record, dysfunctional oppostion.

Originally posted to NH Flaming Moderate on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 05:55 PM PDT.

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