Sean Trende over at Real Clear Politics has started the process of looking at the 2014 House elections. The article mostly concerns its title, Congressional Elections and the Sixth-Year Myth. This is the idea that the president’s party will lose big in the sixth-year midterm. To me, this myth is a little hard to understand. The House membership change for all the two-term presidents since FDR are as follows: -22%, -24%, -16%, -25%, -3%, +2%, -13%. I think people look at the big starting numbers and just go with it. To me, it looks like a downward trend: something that used to be that is no longer.
Well, that isn’t what’s going on. He showed (going all the way back to 1870) that in only one of the two midterm races, the president’s party loses big. It is very rare that it happens twice—in fact, it only happened once—to Grant in 1870 and 1874. Trende mentioned a number of reasons why this is, but one is by far the most important. And we know what it is. The biggest reason that the Democrats lost in 2010 was not Obamacare or any of that garbage. When Obama won big in 2008, he dragged a lot of House Democrats with him who were in marginal or even conservative districts. When turn-out was low in 2010, they all lost. So now in 2014, the Democrats hold very few marginal seats. So they will not lose big in the upcoming midterms. At least they won’t unless something dramatic happens.
Trend still thinks that the race favors the Republicans. He says the results will likely be somewhere between 5 Democratic seats up to 15 Republican seats up. The odds of the Democrats taking back the house (which would require that they win 17 seats) is very unlikely. In summary:
And I’ll take that hope—especially coming from a conservative outlet like Real Clear Politics!