The Obama gang is going to the woodshed in two months. That’s undeniable. The question is, how big a whooping will it be? Depending on who you ask, a lot of different possibilities come up.
Let’s start with where the Republicans and Democrats are right now. Currently, the Republicans hold 178 House seats and 41 Senate seats, while the Democrats control 257 House seats and 59 Senate seats. Since the Civil War, in off-year elections Republicans have averaged losing 4 House seats and 1 Senate seat. Since WW2 that average shifts to an average gain of 1 House and Senate seat in off-year elections. Since the Civil War, the House and Senate have shifted by 10.0% or more on sixteen occasions, with the Republicans gaining 10.0% or more on nine of those occasions. The much-celebrated 1994 landslide was a 10.7% shift (12.4% change in House seats, 9.0% change in Senate seats). The largest shift prior to that was the 1958 election, where Democrats gained 11.0% in the House and 13.5% in the Senate.
As a rule, changes in the Senate are less dramatic than in the House. The numbers show why. To take control of the House, Republicans need to gain 40 seats, and to take control of the Senate, the Republicans need to gain 10 seats. But all 435 seats in the House are up for election this year, so the House gain needed represents a gain of 9.2%, but only 34 Senate seats are up for election, meaning the Republicans would need to gain 29.4% in the senate of the seats up for election. What’s more, considering the Republicans need to gain 40 and 10 seats respectively, they really need to hold all their seats and win 40 of the 257 seats they don’t already hold in the House, or 15.6% gain of the seats now held by Democrats, and they need to hold all their Senate seats and take 10 of the 16 elections for seats now held by Democrats, or 62.5% of the Senate elections for seats now held by Democrats. And those numbers start with the unlikely assumption that the Republicans would win every election in seats held by a republican right now. So, taking control of the House may be possible, but it’s a real challenge to chase control of the Senate.
But can it be done? Well, in 1994 the Republicans gained 54 House seats and 9 Senate seats, in 1980 they gained 34 House seats and 12 senate seats, and in 1946 the GOP gained 56 House seats and 13 Senate seats, so yes it can be done. Won’t be easy, though, especially if people get over-confident. Compare the following years to see the problem:
1980: Reagan elected in landslide, Republicans gain 34 House seats and 12 Senate seats
1982: off-year election, Republicans gain 1 Senate seat but lose 26 House seats
1984: Republicans gain 16 House seats, lose 1 Senate seat in the same year Reagan destroys Mondale
1986: Republicans lose 5 House seats and 8 Senate seats
1994: Stunning Republican victory, 54-seat gain in House, 9 in Senate
1996: Republicans lose 4 House seats, no change in Senate
1998: Republicans lose 3 House seats, no change in Senate
2004: Second Howard Dean’s “Referendum” on Bush, Bush wins re-election and Republicans gain 3 House seats and 4 Senate seats
2006: Republicans lose 30 House seats and 6 Senate seats
2008: Republicans lose 24 House seats and 8 Senate seats
My point here is that even when there is reason for motivation and focus, it does not happen automatically and nothing should be assumed as given. While it is certain that the Democrats are unpopular with the public and will lose seats to the Republicans, whether that will lead to a change in control of one or both chambers of the Chamber Pot on the Potomac depends on the drive and focus of the voters, and it’s more important than ever to not let this opportunity to reclaim our government slip.