Yesterday I began a two-part series trying to establish expectations for the 2014 midterms. My argument was that we won’t likely see a Republican wave this time around, and that it is probably time to scratch the “sixth-year itch” argument.
Today I want to focus more specifically on what we might expect to see in the upcoming elections. Let’s first look generally at the obstacles Democrats face in their quest to take back the House. They need a net gain of 17 seats to do so, although they might well get a start on this by picking up an open seat in South Carolina, where Mark Sanford’s troubled special election campaign has been abandoned by the NRCC.
So let’s assume they need 16. Let’s also understand that there is no “rule” against the president’s party gaining seats in a midterm election. Losing seats, however, is a very strong tendency. The president’s party has gained seats in only three midterms since the Civil War: 1934, 1998 and 2002 (it did so in 1902, but not relative to the size of the House, which was increased that year).