Midterms might yield food for thought for both parties

Earlier today, John wrote:

By historical standards, the Democrats’ performance in this year’s midterm elections won’t be good. The current consensus–which may be wrong, but let’s go with it for now–is that they will net at least 23 House seats, enough to gain control of that chamber, and probably a few more, while losing a seat or two in the Senate.

This is sub-par for the first midterm election of a presidency.

I agree. However, the Senate presents a special case because the Democrats are defending ten seats in states carried by Donald Trump two years ago. Few expected Republicans to capture Senate seats in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. However, in early 2017, Republican insiders liked the party’s chances of winning in North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Indiana, and maybe West Virginia and Florida. There was some concern about the GOP holding Nevada, but few were very concerned about Arizona.

Thus, there was good reason to expect Republicans to pick up at least four seats, thereby increasing the majority to 55-45. If Republicans pick up just one or two seats, as John reasonably predicts, the GOP should consider this a disappointment.

In such an election, Republicans would probably pick up North Dakota and Missouri. They might hold both Nevada and Arizona in the two-seat pickup scenario. In the one-state scenario, they might lose one of these seats.

Losing in Red States like Montana and Indiana would be disappointing. Losing Arizona to a hippie-dippie peacenik who holds her state in contempt would be a punch in the gut. So would seeing Sen. Claire McCaskill defeat Josh Hawley, if it comes to that. If the GOP suffers these results, an inquest would not be amiss.

However, the scenario John describes wouldn’t sober up either party. The Democrats would take solace from losing just one or two seats in the Senate. Republicans would take solace from losing fewer than the normal number of House seats. Thus, ironically, the comfort for each party would come from the chamber it failed to win control of.

Such is politics.

What if one of the parties defies expectations and does better than predicted in both chambers? Would this sober up the disappointed party?

I doubt it. Democrats would blame the strong economy and wait for the economy to take a turn for the worse. Our economy always has, eventually.

Republicans would note that the first midterm of a presidency rarely goes well for the party in power, and that Presidents Clinton and Obama both bounced back from “trumpings/shallackings to win a second term.

The interesting question for me is how many trumpings/shallackings it takes these days to sober up a political party. I don’t know the answer, but I suspect it’s a pretty large number.

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