Election handicappers say Republicans could possibly net 75 seats in the House. Here’s a look at prior wave elections:
1894: GOP +130 (out of 357 total seats). The 1894 midterm election was the biggest wave election in American history. On Election Day, the unemployment rate was between 12 and 18 percent. Voters blamed the bad economy on Democratic President Grover Cleveland.
1904: GOP +44 (out of 386 total seats). The popularity of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, who was on the ballot, was enough to generate a Republican wave.
1910: Dems + 58 (out of 394 total seats). The unpopularity of President William Howard Taft combined with infighting in the Republican Party translated into large Democratic gains.
1912: Dems +61. Continued conflict between the progressive and conservative wings of the Republican Party, together with the perception that Republicans were corrupt, resulted in a second consecutive Democratic wave.
1914: GOP +62. After two disastrous elections in a row, Republicans were able to bounce back by taking credit for the booming economy.
1920: GOP +62. Voters, upset with the Democrats’ interventionist foreign policies, threw their support behind Republicans, who promised a return to isolationism.
1922: Dems +76. Despite a strong economy and a Republican president, the GOP lost a large number of seats. The loss was blamed on infighting between the GOP’s progressive and conservative wings.
1930: Dems +52. Great Depression + Republican president = large GOP losses.
1932: Dems +97. Voters elected FDR and punished Republicans, whom they blamed for the Great Depression. Democrats also picked up 12 Senate seats, giving them a 59-36 majority.
1938: GOP +81. Voters were angry about the economy, which deteriorated in 1937 and 1938. They blamed FDR and began to believe the New Deal wasn’t working. Voters were also upset over FDR’s court-packing scheme. Moreover, before the election, the GOP controlled just 88 seats, which meant that there were a huge number of traditionally GOP seats held by Democrats. In 1938, Republicans picked up many of those seats.
1942: GOP +47. With WWII going badly and the economy continuing to struggle, support for the Democratic Party began to wane.
1946: GOP +55. The unpopularity of Democratic President Harry Truman and a weak economy were enough to generate a large Republican wave, giving the GOP its first House majority since 1932. Republicans also picked up 12 Senate seats, giving them a narrow 51-46 majority in the upper chamber.
1948: Dems +75. Voters reelected President Truman, who ran against what he called the “do-nothing” Republican Congress. Democrats took back control of the House.
1958: Dems +49. Voters blamed Republican President Dwight Eisenhower for the Recession of 1958. Voters were also upset that the USSR seemed to be winning the Cold War, particularly after the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik, the first satellite, into orbit.
1966: GOP +47. Despite a strong economy, voters were upset with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic majorities in Congress for a number of reasons: inflation; overspending; the growth of government; the race riots that had erupted in many American cities; and the growing conflict in Vietnam.
1974: Dems +49. The Watergate Scandal, a weak economy and an unpopular Republican president (Gerald Ford) all contributed to a large Democratic wave.
1994: GOP +54. An unpopular Democratic president (Bill Clinton) and Democratic corruption scandals, in addition to the Democrats’ unpopular healthcare and gun-control bills, were enough to generate the largest wave since 1948 — and give Republicans their first House majority since 1954. Republicans also picked up 8 seats in the Senate, giving them a 52-48 majority there.
Note: In this post, a “wave election” is defined as an election in which one party gains 40 seats or more in the House of Representatives.