Raising the Bar

RAISING THE BAR….Having essentially conceded defeat, the latest conservative game is to pretend that even if the Democrats pick up 20 or 30 House seats on Tuesday, it’s no big deal. Charles Krauthammer: “Since the end of World War II, the average loss for a second-term presidency in its sixth year has been 29 House seats.” Ann Coulter: “The average sixth-year midterm election, like this year, is much worse for the president’s party, which typically loses 34 seats in the House.”

Nice try, guys, but here’s the reality. Up through the 70s, big swings in House elections were common, but in the last 20 years there’s only been a single year with a big swing (1994). Aside from that, the average change has been less than five seats. You can see the same thing if you look only at sixth-year midterms:

  • 1958: 49 seats

  • 1966: 47 seats

  • 1974: 49 seats

  • 1986: 5 seats

  • 1998: 5 seats

See the trend? In the two sixth-year midterms since 1980, only five seats changed hands. There are plenty of reasons for this, including improved gerrymandering, huge money imbalances, and increased self-segregation. More here if you’re interested.

Bottom line: Thirty years ago a pickup of 25 seats wouldn’t have been that big a deal. Today it is. If Dems win that many seats, it really will be a historic victory.