Apr 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The president’s party almost always loses seats in midterms

Seats changed in House and Senate, by party
Data: The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

History bears out the political trope that the president’s party loses seats in the midterms: there’s rarely been an exception in modern elections.

Why it matters: Both Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for an intense midterm season this fall, expanding their battlegrounds with the elections only about six months away. A Democratic loss would inhibit President Biden from passing the rest of his political agenda.

  • Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) recently announced they wouldn't seek re-election this year.
  • That brings the total number of Republican retirements to just 18, compared to the Democrats' 31.

The details: The president’s party consistently receives a lower share of the House vote — the average of each major-party's vote in each of the 435 House districts — during the midterms than during the prior presidential election.

  • In 2014, the middle of President Obama’s second term, Republicans had a net gain of 13 seats in the House.
  • And in 2020, Democrats actually lost seats, despite a Democratic president’s win. They were still able to hold the majority, but only barely.

What we’re watching: Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report predicted last week the likely scenario for this fall's midterms is a Republican gain in the 15-25 seat range.

  • RealClear Politics currently has Republicans ahead by 3.6 points in the generic ballot tracker.
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee announced it was adding 10 House districts to its list of Democratic targets.
  • Republicans are showing they're much more motivated this cycle by which party controls Congress.
Go deeper