A gain of congressional seats by a president's party in his sixth year in office may not be quite as elusive as the Higgs boson or Fermat's Last Theorem, but it's nearly the equivalent in the political world. Only once in the last 80 years has a president's party managed to gain seats in his second midterm election. That feat was pulled off in 1998 by Bill Clinton, when Democrats gained eight seats on the GOP. In general, however, losses by presidents in midterm elections are as predictable as anything in politics.
Consider Ronald Reagan in 1986, when he was desperate to have the GOP retain control of the Senate. Reagan saw one seat in particular as crucial to win, a seat in Nevada being vacated by his friend Sen. Paul Laxalt. Hoping to capitalize on his popularity in a state he had carried in 1984, Reagan made two early appearances in Nevada on behalf of the GOP candidate. Both of these visits produced surges for the Republican that quickly receded.
Reagan resolved to return to Las Vegas on the day before the election to plead for votes, a visit strongly opposed by his chief of staff, Donald Regan, who feared that the effort would be in a losing cause. Reagan went, reminding voters that "my name will never appear on a ballot again," and ending his speech with a plea to "win one for the Gipper." The next day, the Republican was defeated by a Democratic House member named Harry Reid.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Sixth-Year Seat Gain for Democrats?
President Obama has said that he expects Nancy Pelosi to become speaker again after the 2014 midterm. Ross Baker explains why such an outcome is highly unlikely: