President Obama Scores Victory in US House 2014 Election

Yes, I know, that headline sounds wrong. But I worded it carefully and I assure you it is far more correct than many other headlines we are seeing, about the "historic loss in Congress" with the 2014 election.

The truth is, the party in the White House tends to lose house seats with every midterm election. Over the last half century there have been only two exceptions to that. Also, the second midterm for an 8 year presidency tends to do a bit worse than the first.

In addition to that for the most part, a president's popularity rating drops from the first day of the first term through the subsequent years in office. George Bush's popularity rating probably had the largest and steepest drop. Bill Clinton managed to increase is popularity rating (and his 1998 midterm was one of the only exceptions to the rule of loss as well).

The following graph shows the relationship between presidential approval rating and House loss (data from Gallup). There are two things to note.

First, despite the misleading headlines, President Obama's approval rating was not abysmal compared to the spread across presidents. On the low side, yes, but not the lowest by any stretch of the imagination. Second, and even more interesting, the number of House seats lost during this midterm is far less than predicted using all the other races as a guide.


By political standards, that's actually a victory.

What about the Senate? See this.

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Translated, I got a bloody nose but at least I didn't lose my teeth, so that was a victory. No, I don't think so.

There was a victor, and that was the democratic process. It reflected the will of the people, even if you did not like their will.

You define the right outcome as your side winning. I define the right outcome as the one chosen in a fair electoral process.

By Peter Smith (not verified) on 09 Nov 2014 #permalink

Peter, no, actually, I didn't say "my side won." You missed the two points I made her by about five miles each.

Greg, that's probably because I'm wearing worn veldskoene in the dusty Kalahari!

By Peter Smith (not verified) on 09 Nov 2014 #permalink

And what about the Senate and the governorships?

Peter: OK, whatever.

Ron, this post is just about the house. The Senate is a potentially different situation, I may post about that later. I haven't personally taken much of a look at the governorships. State politics and national are not that closely linked. Probably not very interesting.

The losses in the house were pretty normal for a midterm, and the Senate was always going to require massive Republican failure to be saved. We got spoiled by Republicans failing just as we needed them to in 2010 and 2012, and I like our odds of retaking the Senate in 2016. The disappointment was in governor races. That said, losses by the president's party in midterms isn't necessarily inevitable, and they can be less or more. We could have done better. Candidates of the president's party always run from him, both parties, and it fails every time. But they never learn. The hidden victory for Democrats is that we nearly ran the table in referenda. Even the midterm voters agree more with Democrats on issues, but they don't know they agree with the Democrats. They actually trust Republicans more on issues where they oppose Republican positions. That's nothing new, as there have always been a chunk of voters who don't connect candidates and positions on issue. At least having a majority with us on issues is a place to start rebuilding.

By Eric Ferguson (not verified) on 09 Nov 2014 #permalink

That does not look like a 'hockey stick', Greg Laden. In fact, it *looks* like a pool cue. I'm not really sure what you're hiding...