04 November 2006

Election predictions, part 2

In part 2 of my election prediction series, I want to talk about the history of midterm elections. Why, you might ask. And that's a good question. The reason is because I think it is important to understand the dynamics that come into play during a midterm election so that you can understand how the results come to be.

First, let me define what I mean by a midterm election. As we know, every four years is a presidential election year. 2000, 2004, 2008, and so on. Those elections between those years are midterm elections, so by midterm I mean mid-presidential term. 2002, 2006, etc.

Midterm elections are almost always won by the party opposite the president's party. That is, history shows us that no matter what the situation, the party in power in the White House almost always loses seats in Congress.

Consider these numbers:
The average first midterm election loss for every elected president since 1914 is 27 House seats and three Senate seats. 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 and six seats in the Senate.

This makes the average loss in two midterm elections for the party in the White House: 30 House seats and four or five Senate seats in each midterm election.
What this means is that just by historical average, we can expect the Democrats to win at least 30 House seats and at least 4-5 Senate seats.

Also consider the fact that in 2002, the Republicans actually gained seats in both the House and Senate, the first time any president's party has gained seats in a midterm election since 1934!

According to Real Clear Politics, twelve current Republican seats lean Democratic. A further 18 remain in the toss-up category. Assuming that the Democrats can win 2/3 of the toss-ups, the Democrats will net 24 seats in the House. It will give them the House of Representatives back, but it still falls short of the historical average.

In the Senate, three Republican seats lean Democratic. A further three are toss-ups. The Democrats would have to win all six of these seats, and fend off a late challenge by Michael Steele in Maryland to take control of the Senate. As it looks now, the Democrats should be happy just to meet the historical average of 4-5 seats.

What does all of this mean?

Despite the possibilities of significant Democratic gains in both the House and Senate (with the House more likely to end up Democratic), their projected gains are still falling short of what one would expect. I think this is a result of two things: first, people are souring on the war, and voting "against" the President because of it. Second, the Democrats have no message. They seem to be "against" everything, but "for" nothing. The result is that people are more likely to vote against Republicans than for Democrats. This might give the Democrats some new political power, but it really doesn't change the underlying political landscape.

Tomorrow: my predictions.
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