Republicans were disappointed to lose the House of Representatives to Democrats on Tuesday. But they gained several seats in the Senate. Overall the GOP out-performed the historical average for the president’s party.
As a recent analysis of historical trends in midterm elections noted: “Over the past 28 midterm elections since 1906, the president’s party lost about 30 House seats and 4 Senate seats on average.”
President Donald Trump’s Republican Party was projected to lose between 25 and 35 seats as of 1:00 a.m. EST on Wednesday — right around the historical average. Moreover, Trump and the GOP were projected to gain at least four seats in the Senate — defying history.
The fact that Republicans did so well in the Senate is partly a geographical quirk: the party only had eight of its own seats at stake in the midterm elections, while Democrats had 25 (including left-wing independents). However, the Democrats may well have hung onto their seats had they not chosen to attack Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
As Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics noted, almost all of the Democrat Senators in competitive races who voted against Kavanaugh lost on Tuesday, while the one who voted for Kavanaugh — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — won.
Notably, Trump focused his energies on the Senate, campaigning in key states in the closing weeks of the election. He found it more difficult to help House candidates, many of whom kept their distance from him in suburban areas — perhaps a strategic mistake on their part, since candidates who chose to embrace the president tended to win.
The only years in which the president’s party has gained net seats in Congress in midterm elections since 1906 have been in 1934 (during the New Deal), 1998 (during the Clinton impeachment), and 2002 (after the 9/11 attacks).