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Sunday, December 4, 2016

By Stuart Rothenberg, CQ Roll Call

President Barack Obama is about to do what no president has done in the past 50 years: have two horrible, terrible, awful midterm elections in a row.

In fact, Obama is likely to have the worst midterm numbers of any two-term president going back to Democrat Harry S. Truman.

Truman lost a total of 83 House seats during his two midterms (55 seats in 1946 and 28 seats in 1950), while Republican Dwight Eisenhower lost a combined 66 House seats in the 1954 and 1958 midterms.

Obama had one midterm where his party lost 63 House seats, and Democrats are expected to lose another 5 to possibly 12 House seats (or more), taking the sitting president’s total midterm House losses to the 68 seat to 75 seat range.

Most recent presidents have one disastrous midterm and another midterm that was not terrible.

The GOP lost 30 House seats in George W. Bush’s second midterm, but gained 8 seats in his first midterm for a net loss of 22 seats. The party lost 26 seats in Ronald Reagan’s first midterm, but a mere 5 seats in his second midterm for a net loss of 31 seats.

Democrats got shellacked in 1994, losing 54 seats in Bill Clinton’s first midterm, but the party gained 5 House seats in 1998 for a net Clinton loss of 49 House seats. (The figures don’t include special elections during a president’s term.)

Looking at Senate losses, Republicans lost a net of 5 seats in George W. Bush’s two midterms, while Republicans lost a net of 7 seats during Ronald Reagan’s two midterms and Democrats lost a net of 8 seats during Bill Clinton’s two midterms. (Again, these numbers do not reflect party switches or special elections.)

Democrats have a chance to tie the number of Senate losses that Republicans suffered during the midterms of Eisenhower, when the GOP lost a net of 13 Senate seats (12 in 1958 and only one in 1954).

Democrats lost 6 Senate seats in 2010 and seem likely to lose from 5 to as many as 10 seats next week. That would add up to Obama midterm Senate losses of from 11 seats to as many as 16 seats.

Democrats will likely not exceed the number of Senate losses they incurred during the two Truman midterms, in 1946 and 1950, when the party lost a remarkable net of 17 seats.

Are the Democrats’ losses due to the increasingly partisan nature of our elections and the makeup of the past two Senate classes, or is the president at least partially to blame because he failed to show leadership on key issues and never successfully moved to the political center?

The answer, most obviously, is, “Yes.”

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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