Midweek midterm elections update for March 28th - Who Would Control Congress today?
Bottom Line: We're up to our 10th midterm election update & there are big changes again this week. Here's what history tells us about midterm elections:
Since the advent of the current two-party system (39 midterm elections) we've averaged the President's party losing 4 Senate seats and 30 seats in the House. If that happens this year Democrats would retake control of both chambers of Congress. Democrats only need to flip two Senate seats to retake control and they need 24 seats in the House. History is on the side of the Democrats reclaiming control going into this cycle.
There are only three times that the incumbent President's party has gained seats (1934 during FDR's first term, 1998 during Bill Clinton's second term and 2002 during George W. Bush's first term) thus only 3 out of 39 midterm elections have resulted in the President's party gaining seats. Here's another way of looking at it... History suggests there's a 92% chance Democrats will gain Congressional seats this year. The question becomes how many. That's where it's helpful to look at the history of generic ballot polls and outcomes. These are the past four cycles:
The first number is the average generic ballot polling on Election Day and the second is the actual result:
2014: GOP +2.4 - GOP +5.7 = GOP +3.3%
2010: GOP +9.4 - GOP +6.8 = GOP -2.6%
2006: DEM +11.5 - DEM +7.9 = DEM -3.6%
2002: GOP +1.7 - GOP +4.6 = GOP +2.9%
The first takeaway is that the polls average being off by about 3% - however history has shown that the party with a generic ballot advantage has always performed the best in the midterm elections - so this perspective is highly predictive of which party is best positioned for the cycle. So next let's try to see what cycle this one most resembles. As of today, the generic ballot says...
Current: DEM: +5%
This week produced the most polling and the most consistent results thus far this cycle. There have been five accredited polls of registered voters over the past week and the range was DEM +6 to DEM +3. This week Democrats lost three points on the generic ballot question which once again changes the dynamic significantly for this midterm election cycle. Last week Democrats were positioned to gain 26 seats in the House and 3 seats in the Senate. Enough to gain control of both. Based on a five-point advantage on the generic ballot the picture at this stage of the cycle looks like this...
21 seats in the House and 2 Senate seats
Were this to hold until Election Day, Republicans would narrowly hold onto the House and narrowly lose control of the Senate. Once we get past the primaries and can track specific races, we're likely to see a myriad of tight races this year - much more so than in typical midterm cycles.
Until next week...