2018 Midterm Elections President Trump’s losses less than in past elections in recent history

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

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On Tuesday, November 2, 2010, during President Barack Obama’s first term, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives and control. Democrats maintained control of the Senate but Republicans picked up five seats and added six governorships to their tally. In addition, Republicans added 680 seats in state legislative elections. Republicans had control of 26 state legislatures to the Democrats 15 and had 29 governorships out of 50. The Democrat’s losses at the Congressional and state level were the “largest losses for a party since the Great Depression.” The seat change in the House was the biggest since the 1948 election cycle when the Republicans lost control and the largest midterm change since 1938 when President Franklin Roosevelt was president. The 2010 midterm election marked the third time Republicans made gains in the first midterm election of a president’s terms, the others were 1994 and 2002. Incumbents were the great losers in the 2010 midterm election especially Democrats were 50 lost their seats versus only two Republicans.


On Tuesday, November 5, 2002, during President George W. Bush’s first term Republicans were able to keep control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate during the midterm election. The Republicans added eight seats in the House and two seats in the Senate. Bush’s gains were the exception to the rule. The elections were held just one year after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks, and in the aftermath, Bush saw the highest presidential approval rating in history with 91 percent and he maintained high approval ratings in the months afterward for unifying and decisive response to the terror attacks.


On Tuesday, November 8, 1994, during President Bill Clinton’s first term the Republican took control of both houses of Congress amounting to the Republican Revolution. The Republicans gained 54 seats in the House and eight in the Senate. It was 40 years since the Republicans last controlled the House since they lost it in the 1954 midterm elections when Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president. Republican swept elections at the state level as well adding 12 governorships and 472 legislative seats controlling 20 more state legislatures.


On Tuesday, November 6, 1990, during President George H. W. Bush’s first and only term, the Democrats maintained control of both Houses of Congress and built on their majority, however, Republicans loss less than usual in a president the first term. Republicans only loss nine seats in the House of Representatives while the Democrats picked up one Senate seat. At the time, President Bush had high approval ratings as the country prepared along with a United Nations to free Kuwait from Iraq in the Gulf War. Bush still had not gone back on his campaign promise to raise taxes during an upcoming recession, which would cost him reelection in 1992 making him the only one-term president in the last nearly 40 years.


On Tuesday, November 2, 1982, during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, the Democrats maintained their majority in the House of Representatives and added 27 seats, while the Republicans maintained control of the Senate with the Democrats gaining a seat. Reagan faced low approval ratings bottoming out at 35 percent in January 1983, as the country plunged into an economic recession over Reagan’s conservative policies. The economic recession began in late 1981 and lasted two years; the unemployment rate reached 10 percent the highest since 1931 when the Great Depression raged. As Michael Schaller notes in his book Reckoning with Reagan America and Its President in the 1980s, “11.5 million Americans had lost jobs and as many as 10 million others were forced into lower paying work.” (Schaller, 49) Reagan blamed his predecessor Jimmy Carter for the economic slump but the voters blamed Reagan. Still, this was the first time since 1928 that the Republicans held on to the majority in either House in a midterm election. The economy would turn around in 1983, and Reagan would go on to win reelection in 1984 in a landslide victory.

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Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) & historian. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.

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