Each mid-term election has its own character, its own set of political
demographics and circumstances, its own hot-button issues, and mostly
its own center-stage personalities. At the same time, certain historical
patterns can often be found in the results after the votes are tallied ---
but rarely before election day. Historical similarities do often occur, and
there are characteristic patterns which appear in one mid-term,
disappear in the next, and then reappear in another.
One of the recurring patterns, in addition to the often cited one in which
the party in power loses seats in the U.S. house and senate, is the
circumstance of when the mid-term is a provisional report card on the
current president and his administration’s policies. Recent presidents
of both parties --- Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ---
each had problematic first two years in their first term, and did not do
well in their first mid-term elections. But each of them recovered, and
won a second term. Only Jimmy Carter failed to recover from his first
two years, and was defeated for re-election.
But not all mid-terms are so nationalized. Both Presidents Bush had
first mid-terms in either economic boom or, in the case of George W.
Bush, the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001..
We also need to remember that second-term mid-term elections are
different from those which occur two years after a new president is
elected. Those mid-terms also often result in the party out of power
making gains, but in 1998 during a booming economy Republicans
(who controlled the house and senate, but not the White House) lost
seats in the house and made no gains in the senate. After the election,
in December, 1998, the house impeached President Bill Clinton, but
failed to convict him in February, 1999. The two issues in 1998 were
the economy and the impending impeachment. Voters approved the
former and opposed the latter.
What about 2018?
The economy is booming. Democrats are so far delaying the
confirmation of President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. supreme
court. Many Democrats are saying that if they recapture control
of the U.S. house, they will attempt to impeach Mr. Trump. The
president’s popularity is under 50%. The Trump administration has
just completed a successful renegotiation of the NAFTA agreement.
Mr. Trump’s promised border wall with Mexico has not been built.
The president has nominated a large number of conservative federal
judges --- most of them replacements for retiring liberal judges. The
Democrats have no central theme to the mid-term elections, running
a variety of establishment liberal and much more radical candidates
across the nation. Donald Trump is the single most significant factor
in both Democratic turnout (against him) and Republican turnout (for
i think we can safely conclude, therefore, that the 2018 mid-term
elections have been nationalized. Of course, these same elections are
state-by-state and district-by-district, and local conditions and
individual candidate personalities are always important, but in the
final weeks of this cycle, the overriding questions appear to be about
President Trump, his nominee for the U.S. supreme court, and the
impact of the economy.
The reader can come to his or her own conclusion about which party
a nationalized mid-term election will most benefit. The national
popular vote remains divided, as it was in 2016, with Democrats
having an edge. But 2018 is not a national popular vote election --- it is
a state-by-state and district-by-district election. National polls thus
mean relatively little, even if they are accurate --- something very much
in doubt so far.
Nevertheless, 2018 is an either/or election --- a voter statement about
whether they are overall pleased or displeased with their national and
There are still apparently a lot of undecided or wavering voters in key
competitive races, but election day is now approaching rapidly.
Place your bets.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.