Who Would Control Congress today

Midweek midterm elections update for April 4th - Who Would Control Congress today?     

Bottom Line: We're up to our 11th 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: +8%       

Another week and another swing back in the direction of Democrats on the generic ballot. All three credible polls showed improvements for Democrats in Congressional races generally and Democrats are three points better off today compared to a week ago as a result. Importantly were these numbers to hold - Democrats would be positioned to narrowly recapture complete control of Congress.  

Based on an eight-point advantage on the generic ballot the picture at this stage of the cycle looks like this...  

  •  26 seats in the House and 3 Senate seats  

Were this to hold until Election Day 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... 



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