Anger, exhaustion and frustration tend to set in among voters as presidents approach the last leg of their final term. It happened to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938 when voters recoiled at his New Deal reforms. Twenty years later, consternation over the economy cost Dwight Eisenhower 48 House seats. And in 2006, George W. Bush, presiding over two drawn-out wars in the Middle East, watched Republicans lose 30 seats and control of the House.
On the surface, the brass ring looks well within reach for Pelosi and her party: Democrats will need to flip only around 17 or 18 GOP seats to win the House. But that relatively modest gap probably masks the degree of difficulty.
“Voters get frustrated and there’s burnout,” said Andrew Myers, a Democratic pollster who counts many congressional candidates as clients. “It’s overexposure. People are just ready for something different.”Republicans are pretty close to their maximum seat share in the House. And Nate Silver explains a couple of related reasons why Democratic losses in 2014 probably won't be huge:
First, there is some reversion to the mean: a party tends to lose more seats in the House when it has more of them to lose.
There is also another type of reversion to the mean that is often overlooked: the president’s party tends to lose more seats in the midterms following years when it performed very strongly in the presidential race. For example, the large margins of victory achieved by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964 were followed by large losses in the House two years later.But D gains are still unlikely:
This year, there were only 11 House seats that Democrats lost by five or fewer percentage points. Thus, even if they had performed five points better across the board, they would still have come up six seats short of controlling the chamber.
In other words, Democrats would have to perform quite a bit better in House races in 2014 than they did in 2012 to win control of the chamber – when usually the president’s party does quite a bit worse instead.
One should never say never when it comes to forecasting the outcome of an election two years in advance. But it might take a major scandal in the Republican party, or for Republicans to splinter into factions, for Democrats to have more than a remote chance of winning the House.
And there is one more factor working against Democrats: they have become increasingly reliant upon voters, like Hispanics and those under the age of 30, who do not turn out reliably in midterm election years. Democrats have a broader coalition than Republicans do in high-turnout environments, so perhaps this will benefit them in 2016. But these are not the voters you would want to depend upon to make gains in midterm election years, when turnout is much lower.