Biggest Midterm House Losses Since WWII: Obama (-63), Truman (-55), Clinton (-54)

By Terence P. Jeffrey | November 5, 2018 | 10:29 PM EST

Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) -In the post-World War II era, Presidents Barack Obama, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton saw the three biggest midterm election losses for their party in the House of Representatives, according to historical data published by the Clerk of the House.

In 2010, when Obama was in his first term and had signed the Obamacare law, the Democrats lost a net of 63 House seats. In 1946, after Truman had succeeded the late Franklin Roosevelt (who died in April 1945) and real GDP was declining by 11.6 percent, the Democrats lost 55 seats. In 1994, when Clinton was in his first term in which his signature proposal was Hillarycare (a “universal healthcare plan"), the Democrats lost 54 seats.

These losses exceeded the 48 seats the Republicans lost in the 1974 midterm, which took place three months after President Richard Nixon resigned because of the Watergate scandal and in a year when real GDP contracted by 0.5 percent.

When Dwight Eisenhower was president in 1958 and the economy contracted by 0.7 percent, the Republicans also lost 48 seats.

This chart ranks the 18 midterm elections since World War II by the number of House seats lost by the incumbent president's party:

President Lyndon Johnson saw the sixth worst post-World War II midterm in 1966, when he escalated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and American troops suffered 6,350 casualties.

Only two presidents since World War II have seen their party gain seats in a midterm election. In 2002, a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when George W. Bush was president, the Republicans added 8 seats to their House majority.

In 1998, during Clinton’s second term, when the Republicans controlled a majority of the House, and the annual unemployment rate and real annual GDP growth were both at 4.5 percent, the Democrats picked up 4 seats. That was not enough, however, to win back a majority of the House—which the Republicans held 223 to 211.

In the 18 midterm elections that have been held since World War II, the party of the sitting president has lost an average of approximately 26 House seats, according to the historical data published by the Clerk of the House.

After the average post-World War II midterm election, the president’s party held about 201 House seats and the major opposition party held about 233.

Also during the post-World War II period, the average annual unemployment rate in a midterm election year has been 5.92 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, the average annual growth in real GDP in a midterm election year has been 1.97 percent.

In 2010, during Obama’s first term, when the Democrats lost 63 House seats, the annual unemployment rate was 9.6 percent—although real GDP was growing at an annual rate of 2.6 percent.

President Obama that year signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare.

 

26 Midterms Since House Expanded to 435 Seats

In 1911, Congress approved legislation increasing the number of House members from 391 to 435. There have been 26 midterm House elections since then, starting in 1914.

During those 26 midterm elections, the president’s party has lost an average of 30 House seats.

During those midterm election years, the average annual unemployment rate has been 6.94 percent and the average annual growth in real GDP has been 2.43 percent. (The unemployment rate for the years from 1914 through 1946 come from the Bureau of the Budget’s “Annual Estimates of Unemployment in the United States." The unemployment rate for the years from 1947 forward come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

This chart ranks the 26 midterm elections since 1914 by the number of House seats lost by the incumbent president's party:

In the 26 midterm elections since 1914, the only two elections in which an incumbent president’s party lost more House seats than the 63 that Democrats lost in 2010, when Obama was president, were in 1922, when Warren Harding was president, and the Republicans lost 75 seats, and 1938, when Franklin Roosevelt was president, and the Democrats lost 71 seats.

In the first midterm election for a 435-seat House, which was in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson’s Democrats lost 59 seats.

The next largest loss in those 26 midterm elections since 1914 was the 55 seats the Democrats lost in 1946, when Truman was president, and, after that, the next largest loss, was the 54 the Democrats lost in 1994, when Clinton was president.

The seventh largest loss of House seats a party has seen since 1914 was the 49 seats the Republicans lost in 1930, when Herbert Hoover was president.

That was the year after the 1929 stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

Only two first term presidents--Franklin D. Roosevelt (+9) and George W. Bush (+8)--saw their party pick up seats in the House during the first midterm of their presidency.

The only other time since 1914 that an incumbent president’s party has gained seats in the House was in 1998, in the middle of Bill Clinton’s second term, when the Democrats gained 4 seats.

From 1912 through 1956, there were 96 members of the U.S. Senate (two for each of 48 states). In 1958, that increased to 98; then, in 1960, to 100. In each midterm election, one-third of the Senate is up for election. In the 26 midterm elections since 1914, the president’s party has lost, on average, approximately 4 seats.

The worst any president’s party did in the Senate races in these 26 midterms was in 1958, when Dwight Eisenhower was president and the Republicans lost 13 seats. The best any president’s party did was in 1934, when Franklin Roosevelt was president and the Democrats gained 10 seats.

In those 26 midterms, the president’s party lost Senate seats in 19 midterms, broke even in one, and gained seats in six.

In addition to 1934, when the Democrats gained 10 seats, the Democrats gained 5 seats in 1914, when Woodrow Wilson was president, the Democrats gained 3 seats in 1962, when John Kennedy was president, the Republicans gained 2 seats in 1970 when Nixon was president, the Republicans gained 1 seat in 1982, when Reagan was president, and the Republicans gained 1 seat in 2002, when George W. Bush was president.

This chart ranks the 26 midterm elections since 1914 by the number of Senate seats lost by the incumbent president's party:


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