Who'd control Congress today? Midweek midterm elections update

posted by Brian Mudd - 

Who'd control Congress today? Midweek midterm elections update            

Bottom Line: We're up to our 28th midterm election update. And now that our primaries are behind us it’s getting down to crunch time. First, 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%                             

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. This is analogous to a "home field advantage" and represents about a third of the picture when attempting to determine the likely outcome of elections. As of today, the generic ballot says (average of accredited polling over the past week) ...        

  • Current: DEM: +11%                           

There’s been a sharp turn in generic ballot polling and it's all been in favor of Democrats. With an average 11 point advantage over the past week, Democrats are currently averaging their second largest lead of this cycle just as we’re getting down to crunch time. For comparison’s sake Democrats were averaging an 11.5% advantage on Election Day 2006. That year they gained five Senate seats, 31 seats in the House and six Gubernatorial elections. The Senate map isn’t near as favorable for Democrats in this cycle so it’s highly unlikely that the same number of Senate seats would be gained. As of this week due to post-primary polling Democrats would likely only gain only one but the other numbers are pretty strong examples. If this size of lead were to hold Democrats would likely gain 30+ seats in the House taking control and would also likely gain a minimum of 4 Governors races, including as of today, Florida.  

Democrats have led on the generic ballot by an average of 3% to 12% in 2018. Anything in the 8%+ range would likely produce a "wave" type of election. Anything in the 4% or under range would likely result in Republicans retaining complete control. Individual candidates and issues in specific races can heavily influence outcomes however Democrats appear to be gaining momentum as we’re down to the final two months before the midterms.  

Until next time...   

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