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Democrats Still Well Positioned To Ace The Mid-Terms

Recently, the conventional wisdom out of Washington is that the blue wave is receding and that the GOP is resurgent. As a starting point, please always bear in mind that it’s the GOP that sets the so-called “conventional wisdom” in D.C. since the “liberal” mainstream media has been bullied and browbeaten into submission by the GOP over the years. The mainstream media has been intimidated by the GOP’s phony charge of “liberal” bias and is terrified of the Republicans.

More important than that, history clearly demonstrates that the GOP is on thin ice this fall. The leading indicator of a party’s performance in the mid-term elections is the President’s approval rating. When a President is below 50% approval, his party loses seats in the Congress. Conversely, when a President is popular, his party fares well. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane here to get some historical context.

The airbrushed version of the Reagan Presidency from conservatives would lead you to believe that he was always popular during his eight years in office. However, in the fall of 1982, unemployment was at 11% and Reagan’s approval rating was a tepid 41%. As a result, the Democrats picked up 26 seats in the House of Representatives.

Bill Clinton’s approval ratings — like Reagan’s — were poor during his first mid-term cycle in 1994. That was the low water mark for an otherwise very popular presidency. Clinton was at 46% approval on election day.

The 1994 election cycle was a disaster for the Democrats. They lost 54 seats in the House and lost control of that chamber for the first time since 1954. Over in the Senate, the GOP picked up 10 seats and ended up with a 54 to 46 majority.

Four years later in 1998, Bill Clinton clocked in at a 66% approval rating and Newt Gingrich and the GOP were very unpopular. Usually in the sixth year of a presidency, the party holding the White House loses badly. However, in 1998, the Democrats defied the conventional wisdom and picked up 5 seats in the House.

Four years later in 2002, George W. Bush enjoyed a 63% approval rating as the rally around the flag effect from 9/11 hadn’t dissipated. The GOP went against historical trends and picked up a handful of seats in both Houses of Congress and regained control of the Senate.

By 2006, Bush’s approval ratings had cratered as a result of the Iraq War and his Administration’s ineffectual response to Hurricane Katrina. By October 2006, Bush’s approval rating had sunk to 37% from a high of 91% just after 9/11. The Democrats won big in 2006 — picking up 30 seats in the House and 6 seats in the Senate. The GOP lost control of the Congress for the first time since 1994.

The shoe was on the other foot for the Democrats in 2010 and 2014. In those mid-term cycles, President Obama’s approval ratings were in the low to mid-40s. In 2010, the Democrats lost control of the House and then the Democrats lost control of the Senate in 2014.

When that historical context is applied to the present day, the Democrats are in a good position to regain control of the House and even make gains in the Senate. The mainstream press and the GOP have made a big deal about Trump’s rising approval ratings but those approval ratings have gone up from 38% to 42%. By historical standards, Trump is still a very unpopular president and his low approval ratings put the GOP majorities in the danger zone.

History also tells us that the economy won’t save the GOP this fall. Job growth is good but middle class wages remain stagnant. Similarly, the economy was in decent shape in 1994, 2006 and 2014, and the party holding the White House still got routed.

When you combine these historical trends with the positive Democratic intensity gap over the Republicans and the Democrats’ consistent over performance in special elections to date, we are still in good shape to ace the mid-terms. However, we can take absolutely nothing for granted — just ask “President Dewey” in 1948. We must work hard and do everything we can to make this Blue Wave a reality! We can do it!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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