Does Winning The Midterms Bode Well For The Next Presidential Election?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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We have established that the midterms are not boring or pointless, but are they predictive? As we look past Tuesday, and toward 2016, this is worth considering.

“Sometimes midterm elections do not necessarily auger into what’s going to happen two years later in a presidential,” says historian and author David Pietrusza. “In 1922, the Republicans lose 7 Senate seats and 77 House seats — massive repudiation.” (Amazingly, they still retained control of both houses of Congress.)

Despite those heavy Republican midterm losses, two short years later, Republican Calvin Coolidge would be elected president. The election gods are fickle. (Listen to my conversation with David Pietrusza on the 90th anniversary of Coolidge’s election.)

An even better example, says Pietrusza, comes in 1946. That year, Republicans “storm into control of the Senate and the House, and then they completely fall on their face in 1948 — not just lose the White House, thanks to Thomas E. Dewey, but then lose control of both the House and the Senate,” he says.

For Republicans, it’s hard to predict whether midterm success signals a presidential victory. They had a good year in 1966, and Richard Nixon was elected in 1968. On the other hand, the Republican Revolution of 1994 certainly didn’t help Republican Bob Dole win the presidency in 1996 (in fact, it probably hurt his chances).

Interestingly, though, while Republican midterm victories seem a mixed bag, Democratic midterm victories often do signal future success. As journalist John Gizzi notes,

This bit of trivia is interesting, but likely meaningless. As I noted the other day, the lessons of history are true until they aren’t.

Matt K. Lewis