Who'd control Congress today? Midweek midterm elections update
Bottom Line: We’re down the final midweek update. 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: +8%
That lead is flat with a week ago. If the current landscape holds on Election Day, we’re looking at a range of around 27 to 32 pickups for Democrats in the House which would be enough to gain control. The Senate map is favorable enough for Republicans that as of today it actually looks like if there’s any change – it'll be a net pickup for Republicans. As mentioned at the onset, an average outcome would be a loss of four seats in the Senate and 30 seats in the House. Republicans are positioned to fare better than those averages. If this outlook holds Republicans are well positioned to retain control of the US Senate but would likely narrowly lose the US House.
Democrats have led on the generic ballot by an average of 3% to 12% in 2018. Individual candidates and issues in specific races can heavily influence outcomes however the general mood slightly favors Democrats nationally as of today which could be an indication of how independent voters may break in the booth.