A new Gallup analysis in effect says the Democrats better brace themselves for big losses in the November elections. The reason: President Barack Obama’s approval rating at less than 50% — and the average seat loss for a party’s whose President is that down in the numbers is 36 seats:
Presidents who retain majority job approval from Americans at the time of midterm elections are much less likely to see their party suffer heavy seat losses than are those with sub-50% approval ratings. Since 1946, when presidents are above 50% approval, their party loses an average of 14 seats in the U.S. House in the midterm elections, compared with an average loss of 36 seats when presidents are below that mark
Gallup bluntly says the Democrats are fighting an “uphill battle” this year — words that could elicit a “No duh” except for the fact that hopes springs eternal among many Dems that with Republican rhetorical overreaching enough Democrats will “come home” and show up at the polls to check-mate poll predictions such as this. But history is clear:
(NOTE: A graph we earlier had here has been removed due to techical difficults, but it showed the historical trend.)
Gallup goes on:
The clear implication is that the Democrats are vulnerable to losing a significant number of House seats this fall with Barack Obama’s approval rating averaging 45% during the last two full weeks of Gallup Daily tracking. The Republicans would need to gain 40 House seats to retake majority control.
On a historical basis, the Democrats under Jimmy Carter suffered the slimmest seat loss of a party whose president was below 50% approval, losing 11 seats in the 1978 midterms. More recently, Bill Clinton in 1994 and George W. Bush in 2006 saw their parties lose enough seats in the House to turn party control over to the opposition party when they had less than majority approval.
The president’s party nearly always loses seats in midterm elections, regardless of how well the president is rated by the public. Since World War II, only Clinton in 1998 and Bush in 2002 saw their parties gain seats in a midterm. Both men had approval ratings above 60% at the time of those elections. However, the parties of the other three presidents with ratings above 60% (Eisenhower in 1954, Kennedy in 1962, and Reagan in 1986) lost seats.
In general, though, the more popular a president is, the fewer seats his party loses, as presidents with approval ratings above 60% have averaged just a three-seat loss.
MSNBC’s First Read sketches the context, wondering if GOPers will be able to capture the House:
*** It’s all about turnout: It’s a cliché in American politics that elections come down to turnout, but it’s a cliché for a reason: It’s true — and it’s especially true this midterm cycle. As you know by now, Republicans have a significant enthusiasm advantage. According to a compilation of all the NBC/WSJ polls from 2010, those having a high interest in voting in November (registering as a “9” or a “10” on a 10-point scale) prefer a GOP-controlled Congress by a 53%-37% margin. That edge is why analysts believe Republicans might very well take back control of the House. But here is something to chew on: Democrats lead among all voters who register “8” or less. Indeed, among those registering a “6” to a “10,” the Republican lead decreases to 46%-42%. And if you add the “5”s, the lead decreases further to 44.5%-43%.
*** Why Democrats will either succeed or fail in November: Those results would still lead to GOP gains, but would they be enough to take back the House? In short, Democrats holding on to Congress will likely depend on whether or not those “5”s, “6”s, “7”s, and “8”s come out to vote in November. The GOP’s 46%-42% lead among those registering a “6” or higher is still not good news for Democrats, because a 4-6 national lead on the generic ballot would likely translate into a net 30- or 40-seat gain for the GOP, smack dab on the line between majority and minority. Could Election Night 2010 end up as Election Month 2010 when it comes to figuring out which party controls the House? Our nightmare scenario: Some 10-15 House races are uncalled on Election Day, leading to one long month of leadership wrangling on both sides of the aisle.
But all of this boils down to this question: whether some Democrats will decide to stay home because they are not totally happy with their own party and/or want to “teach it” a lesson. As I noted in my Cagle.com column two weeks ago, there are already rumblings on the Internet and elsewhere by some Democrats that they’ll sit this one out to teach their own party that their own party and Obama in particular needs to be more progressive.
Of course some tried teaching their party that lesson in 1968 and got Nixon for 8 years, and in 2000 and got George W. Bush for 8 years — and helped both Nixon and Bush consolidate vital Republican inroads into the judiciary and bureaucracy. But what matters to some is venting by staying home (then complaining after the elections about how their party seems to have less clout than ever).
I’ve long predicted that much will depend on GOP rhetorical overreach: if it gets to the point where Democrats rush to the polls due to polemics and the results are far less than the GOP expected on election day than Michael Steel and other party establishment bigwigs will be on the defensive.
But — at this point — history is clearly against Obama and the Democratic party and there’s a probability that the loss of independent voters coupled with some Democrats staying home to in effectve vote with their nonvotes will mean history will repeat itself on election day.