Midway to the Midterms

2010 is the year for midterm elections (i.e. held in the middle of the president’s term). Primary season began in earnest in February, when the voting began. We are now midway to the elections which are scheduled for November 2. The storyline during the first five months of the election cycle was marked by the rise of the Tea Party and endless stories about this being an anti-incumbent year that will see the Democratic party swept out of power by a “wave election” of equal or greater strength as the Republican party’s sweep to power in 1994. I find this argument to be a simplistic one.

First of all, I have very little doubt that the Democratic party will lose seats in Congress. After all, the president’s party has had an average net loss of 26 seats in the House of Representatives since 1946. The Republican party needs nearly 40 seats to regain control of the House and only once since 1976 has either party gained 40 seats. Things are even more stable in the Senate. So while the Republican party could regain control of one or both houses of Congress, their climb is a steep one.

Second, if this wave does come, it likely will not until November. It certainly has not manifested half-way through primary voting. Since February 2, 2010, 26 states have held primary or caucus elections. The results: 5 members of Congress have lost, but 240 have been renominated–that’s a 98% re-election rate. Of course we’ll have to wait until November to see what happens, but right now it looks more like a ripple than a wave.

All in all, I think that the Republicans will have a net pick up of 36 seats in the House and a net pick up 7 seats in the Senate. This will be just short of what is necessary to regain control of either chamber, but enough to force more bipartisanship if this president wants to do anything for the next two years.

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