How Joe Biden and the Democratic Party defied midterm history
President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have pulled off a midterm election for the record books.
Democrats have retained the Senate – doing no worse than holding steady at 50 seats and potentially gaining one – and look likely to keep any net losses in the House in the single digits.
Midterms are supposed to be the time for the opposition party to shine. That should especially be the case when there is once-in-a-generation inflation and when the vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.
Instead, Biden and the Democrats are in a position to have one of the four best midterms for the party controlling the White House in the last century.
So just what happened? It’s pretty clear that general election voters punished Republican candidates they saw as too extreme – on issues such as abortion and/or for being too closely tied to Donald Trump.
Still, the election results were extremely unusual. I went back through the record books. Since 1922, there have been three previous instances of the president’s party gaining (or losing no) Senate seats and losing fewer than 10 House seats in the president’s first midterm.
All of them – 1934, 1962 and 2002 – are thought to be monumental achievements for the president’s party and major exceptions to rule, which suggests the party controlling the White House usually loses seats in a midterm.
Democrats’ performance this year has funneled down to the state level as well. We already know, based on projected races, that this will be the first time since 1934 that the president’s party had a net gain of governorships in a president’s first midterm. (1986 is the only other post-1934 midterm, regardless of when it fell in a presidency, when the president’s party had a net gain of governorships, though Ronald Reagan’s GOP had massive losses in the Senate that year.)