After a rocky first year that was the Trump presidency, both political parties are now gearing up for midterm elections this fall. Although President Trump himself isn’t up for re-election, the midterms are largely seen as a referendum for the nation to evaluate how the president is doing in office by voting for or against members of their party. All seats are up for reelection in the House of Representatives, and the the party in power— in this case, the Republicans— have ample reason to be concerned. In the Senate, eight out of 51 GOP seats are also up for re-election.
In the past, midterm elections are usually unfavorable for the party of first-term presidents. With the exception of the midterms in 1934 for Franklin D. Roosevelt and 2002 for George W. Bush, most newly-elected presidents see their parties lose more seats than they win in the House. Based on precedent, the best any administration can hope for is a slight upset where only a few seats flip and the party in power of the executive branch retains their control of Congress.
According to data from Gallup, a first-term president loses an average of 23 seats in the House. Currently, House Republicans hold the majority at 238 members, and Democrats lag behind with 193 members. There are four vacancies for open seats up for grabs, and currently no independents in office. If the GOP takes a hit of around 24 flipped seats they lose control of the House, which many see as a strong possibility, particularly given the president's abysmal approval ratings.
Presidential job approval is often a clear indication how well their party will fare in the midterms. In 1982, Ronald Reagan’s approval ratings had a short nose dive after the recession in the early ‘80s. Similarly, George H.W. Bush was criticized for how he handled the economy, which ultimately lost his party several seats in the midterms of 1990. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama suffered from approval rating drops after pushing health care legislation— the Health Plan of 1993 and the Affordable Care Act of 2010— which led to tremendous upsets for their party in the House.
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The only president in modern times to gain seats in their first midterm election was the second President Bush, who, along with his party, experienced a bump in support following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Given Trump’s poor approval ratings and congressional approval ratings that don’t fare much better, it’s likely that the GOP is going to take a serious hit this fall.
To predict how Trump’s party will do in the midterm elections, VICE Impact compared how the past five presidents’ parties were affected by their first midterm elections. The data was collected from analytics organization Gallup and tracks voter turnout by midterm election year, the number of votes for members of the House in both the Republican and Democratic parties and the number of seats gained or lost by the president’s party. Rather than including the Senate, the metrics focus specifically on the House where there are more seats up for grabs and wider implications for the president’s party.
Take a look at the findings below:
As the data above shows, midterm elections are determined by voter turnout. When more voters show up to the polls more change can take place.
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