Midweek midterm elections update for May 2nd - Who Would Control Congress?

posted by Brian Mudd -

Midweek midterm elections update for May 2nd - Who Would Control Congress today?       

Bottom Line: We're up to our 15th midterm election update. 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. As of today, the generic ballot says (average of accredited polling over the past week)...   

  • Current: DEM: +8%           

Democrats added one point to their generic ballot lead over the past week (for the 2nd consecutive week). That eight-point margin historically would be a recipe for Democrats to have the success they're seeking this fall. While the generic ballot is just a third of the picture (with the specific candidates and the issues in the specific elections rounding out the races), Democrats are sitting right where they need to be to pull out a big win this fall. Were this margin to hold by Election Day Democrats would be positioned to pick up 28 seats in the US House and three Senate seats – enough to retake complete control of Congress. 

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. This story is a third of the overall election equation. It's the equivalent of "home field advantage" in a sporting event. Right now, Democrats have a solid "home field advantage". 

Until next week...     

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