House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Back in March I took a look back at history to try to get a gauge of whether House Democrats need expect a blowback this cycle, as some have argued, or if instead the party has an opportunity to expand it's majority in the chamber -- perhaps even significantly so. In short, following the four most recent midterm wave elections dating back to the 1960s, the party that previously picked up large numbers of seats lost back only about 10 percent of those new seats two years later. Moreover, in two of the four cycles that followed those midterm wave elections, the previous victor actually picked up more seats, though by no means at the rate of the previous tidal wave.

This week The Cook Political Report's House editor David Wasserman (sorry, subscription required) also takes a look at history, focusing in on potential similarities between the situation faced by the Republicans in 1996 following their historic win in the 1994 midterms with the situation faced today by the Democrats. Here Wasserman homes in directly on retirements and open seats.

It is remarkable that at this point in the cycle, fewer than 2 percent of House incumbents have made plans to leave the chamber after the end of their current term. During the late summers of 2005 and 2003, the numbers of seats in which incumbents had confirmed their departure hovered in the low teens. In the 2006 and 2004 cycles, the numbers of open House seats were ultimately 33 and 31, respectively.

Still, if history is any guide, we should expect a significant number of Republican lawmakers to call it quits in 2008 and a considerably higher incumbent retention rate for Democrats. In the vast majority of cases over the past century, when a party has suffered a major (25+ House seat) loss in a midterm election, a higher percentage of the losing party's members have opted to step down in the succeeding presidential year. This pattern confirms the obvious: that new-found minority status provides House members less incentive to stay put.

After the last party takeover of Congress in 1994, wave-riding Republicans saw 21 in their ranks make plans to step down, while the minority Democrats saw 28 in their ranks bid farewell. Ultimately, Republicans picked off 10 open Democratic seats in the 1996 House elections, while Democrats picked up just four open GOP seats. Although Democrats held a vast advantage in scoring incumbent defeats, Republican net gain of six open seats seriously impeded Democrats' efforts to rebound into the majority that year.

Even though the cumulative total of open seats remains fairly low at this point, Republicans are concerned about last week's developments [with three Republican Congressmen retiring, at least of whom unexpectedly] for reasons much broader than the emergence of three new pieces of turf to defend.

Indeed, the floodgate of retirements has not yet arrived for House Republicans, a fact they should be extremely thankful for. But Wasserman is completely correct in stating that although the floodgates have not yet opened up it does not mean that they will not later on this cycle -- even fairly soon, perhaps before the House goes back into session next month.

And not to insinuate that money means everything in these races, but the specter of widespread retirements from within the House GOP ranks would be all the more problematic for the party given the fact that the National Republican Congressional Committee trails the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by more than a 10-to-1 margin at this juncture in terms of cash-on-hand. Naturally, open seat races -- particularly those in competitive and even marginally competitive districts -- can cost the party defending those seats huge amounts of money.

Given all of this, is it possible that the House Democrats will see another tidal wave election at their hands rather than a blowback election? It would certainly be a rare event in American history; by my estimate, the last time such an event occurred -- a big midterm victory followed by a victory of nearly as large a magnitude two years later -- was in 1950 and 1952, when the Republicans picked up 28 seats and 22 seats in the House, respectively. The last time it occurred for the Democrats was 1930 and 1932, when the Democrats picked up 52 seats and 101 seats in the House, respectively. (Perhaps 1910 and 1912, when the Democrats picked up 58 and 61 seats in the House, respectively, are better examples as the Democrats didn't actually gain control of the House in 1930.) But is such a second tidal wave possible? I do not by any means intend to give the impression that the Democrats have this election won already. However, I wouldn't rule out such a historic shift occurring next fall, either -- so let's keep on pushing.

Tags: House 2008 (all tags)

Comments

41 Comments

Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

If the Congressional race is held today, I could see Democrats picking up all the seats that came within 5% of victory and maybe even more. Right now, 47% prefer Democrats while 37% prefer Republicans on the generic ballot. I would not say it is an impossibility that Democrats could pick up another 15-20 seats, but if the Iraq war is still raging, then I will say yes. If President Bush looks to be in better shape, or if there is a terrorist attack, I will say we will have to work a little harder. It's a little too early to understand the dynamics of the congressional race.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 06:05PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Are you saying a terrorist attack would favor the Republicans?

I thought we weren't allowed to say that.

by Steve M 2007-08-24 07:18PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Oh yes, you are allowed to say it, I don't see why not. We could be attacked bewtween now and election time and the dynamics of the race will change if that happens. I was mainly talking about Clinton bashing or any talk of Clinton for that matter. I think we had more than enough of it today.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 07:29PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?


For the past 15+ years there's something of a pattern of a particular faction of a Party winning a midterm election and then a Presidential year election, controlling most of what happens for about four years.  They then get knocked off, having done all The People considered them useful for, in the next pair of elections.

late 1980s- moderate Republicans dominate
1990/92- conservative Democrats
1994/96- conservative Republicans
1998/00- moderate Democrats - last viable centrist faction
2002/04- Right (hardline) Republicans - last viable Right faction
2006/?08  liberal Democrats

The '96 and '00 Presidential elections were aberrations, in a sense, but do fit the pattern.  In both cases the winners pretended to fit the requirement better.

The moderate Democrats were the last centrist faction with viability.  The 2002/04 elections toppled them, leaving the country without a center.

The 2006 elections more or less toppled the last viable element of the Right with The People, but they still have the White House.  Rather than give in and regain some electibility, they've chosen to blow all their remaining political capital on Iraq.  Which is to say, continuing their ego adventure in Iraq means pretty much conceding the 2010/12 elections to a new assemblage or faction of Democrats.

by killjoy 2007-08-24 08:53PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

People in the anti-war movement are so demoralized by Democrats continuing to fund the war.  The Democrats are in serious trouble of losing liberal and progressive support in 2008. Some will vote Green and more will stay home if the Democrats don't stop acting so much like Republicans.

by libhomo 2007-08-25 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

You are ridiculous.  Would Democrats rather have Republicans in office?  Because that is what they will get if they stay home.

by Toddwell 2007-08-25 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

The Democrats can help another wave occur if they spread their money around wisely, recognizing every opportunity.  The DCCC spent more than $60 million in 2006.  They managed to spend all of $31.00 (thirty one dollars) in NC-08, where we lost by 329 votes. Missed opportunity, big time.

And if Hillary is on top of the ballot, we can kiss many of the remaining Southern Democrats goodbye.

by Bear83 2007-08-24 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Did you really have to bring Hillary Clinton into this? I was so hoping for a good diary where Clinton was not mentioned today. Everyone on this site is either on the defensive or on the attack and the attackers are ruthless.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

RJEvans - get used to it, most of the times i just laugh it off.

With such low congressional approval ratings right now, there might be a blow back... but of course, if HRC is on the ticket, and there is a blow back, dkos will blame it on her "drag on the ticket." its expected - dont put too much stock in it though

by sepulvedaj3 2007-08-24 06:47PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Republicans want the low approval ratings.  They are doing everything in their power to make sure nothing gets done and then run against a "do nothing Congress".  Democrats need to fight back, even if it means shutting the Republicans out of some decisions if they are going to play this way.

by Toddwell 2007-08-24 07:02PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

tired rightwing Republican talking-point propaganda.  this is becoming trollish.

by jgarcia 2007-08-24 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Maybe not such a bad thing to lose a dozen of them for a gain of a dozen in NY/PA/OH.
by killjoy 2007-08-24 08:24PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Not a half bad idea. Solidify those states as Democratic strongholds. The only problem with that is I believe the next couple of election cycles will be a realignment election. WI and PA will be genuine swing states, maybe even start to vote GOP while VA, AR and a few other southern states start to turn purple.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 08:41PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?


It seems to me the socially liberal and Democratic trend has fundamentally been linear for 15+ years.  It's been pretty much a matter of the pre-WW2 generations and early half Baby Boomers dying and GenXers (50/50) and GenYers (65/35ish) becoming voters.

Right now is the significant realignment resembling 1930/32 and 1966/68, imho.  It'll also take another 12-15 years to mature fully, like those did.

by killjoy 2007-08-24 09:28PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Are you sure about that?  My understanding is that Larry Kissell started to raise a fair bit of money in the last month of so of the campaign.

by Adam T 2007-08-24 08:47PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Kissell raised lots of money on his own, along with help from the netroots and from NC Democrats like David Price (NC-4) and Brad Miller (NC-13).  It was the complete lack of support from the DCCC that is appalling.

All the DCCC money that came to NC went to Heath Shuler in NC-11.  I celebrated his win, but we could have certainly had 2 wins here.  After all, each of the 435 Congress-critters gets an equal vote whether they are from NC or IL, VA or CA.

Incumbents are hard as hell to beat - I hope we didn't miss our best shot at Robin Hayes.

by Bear83 2007-08-25 10:08PM | 0 recs
Korea and Iraq

Notice that in 1950 and 1952, the last repeating tidal-wave according to you, there was an unpopular war in Korea.  May be, the unpopular war in Iraq will give us a repeated gains in 2006 and 2008.

It seems to me that the Republicans cannot save themselves.  They will have to rely on our errors.

Nominating a presidential candidate that will unite the divergent interests in the Republican coalition would be the first step in snatching defeat from victory.

by Hellmut 2007-08-24 06:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Korea and Iraq

My point exactly.

by Bear83 2007-08-24 06:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Korea and Iraq

Don't know.

The Republican 'coalition' always seems to come together at the end. They were down by 10-15% in the last 2 weeks in 2006 and ended up losing by 6-8%

I think we can make a lot of gains in tight individual races though.

by Adam T 2007-08-24 08:51PM | 0 recs
Tidal Wave

The GOP has some protection from the overall patterns of gerrymandering, and, of course, from the corporate media, otherwise they'd be in danger of a 1932-style losses.

The GOP's problem is that they haven't really had full control of things since 1932.  The last time they had the ball, they nearly destroyed the country.  They finally get the ball again seven decades later, and damned if they don't do the same thing all over again!

It's not that tens of milions of people remember the Great Depression.  But they sorta do remember when bridges weren't falling down, major cities weren't getting flooded and left unrepaired for two years, and we spent our summers worried about shark attacks instead of collapsing mines.  Oh, yeah, and when military failure meant a brief embarrasment in the horn of Africa, not a bloody eternity in the middle of the Middle East.

Bottom line, when you look for things that Republicans do right, well, you better pack a lunch.

Better still, your lunch better pack a lunch.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-08-24 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Based on all the cues we are seeing, (Fundraising, Polls, Candidate Recruiting, etc.) Democrats are set for another big win.  

In 2006 we saw 7 competitive senate races, 6 came out as Democrat victories.  We saw probably 40-50 competitive House races, 30 of which came out as Democrat victories.  

So far we are preparing for 5 (ME, MN, NH, CO, and OR) - 11 competitive races (Possibly competitive races include VA, KY, OK, NE, NC, and TN)  - I'm guessing we'll land around 6-8 Senate seat pickup.

And we have another 30-50 competitive house races.  (Establishment doesn't look like they are going to play up the 50 state strategy enough to pull some needed upsets) - I'm guessing we land in the 15-20 seat pickup.  

So far Democrats are still being seen as the "Better" party of the two, however Democrats can't lead strong enough without the WH because we don't have the numbers to override the president.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-24 08:31PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

6-8 pickups in the Senate? That's close to the magic number 60. Do you really think we could do that in the Senate? I find it really hard.

As for the House, I could see another 10-25 seats for the DEMs.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 08:42PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

One thing you have to remember.  In 2002, women voted equally between Democrats and Republicans.  Usually women vote STRONGLY Democrat.  

So you have to understand, these seats were gained when Republicans were Raping Democrats in the political atmosphere.  The tide is completely the opposite right now.  Democrats are raping Republicans.  The key is we just have to take the fight to them.  

-Oregon leans blue, Merkley should be able to overcome Smith with the political atmosphere and establishment support.  
-New Hampshire saw a major swing in 2006 and is looking to replace Sununu, if Jeanne Shaheen joins the race, this becomes extremely easy.
-Minnesota shifted more blue in 2006 and Coleman barely won after his opponent died in 2002.  He has already been outfundraised by Al Franken once.  He had to call in Bush already.  
-Colorado is trending more blue and Mark Udall is a popular moderate Democrat.  He has a huge campaign account and is fundraising at an incumbents pace.  
-Maine is blue, but Collins is popular.  A lot of negative local press is flushing around though.  In 2006 Snowe won with 76% but she basically ran against an unfunded opponent.  Tom Allen has strong name recognition and the bank account to bring a serious challenge to the table.  
-Virginia is expecting a Jon Warner Retirement and a bloody Davis-Gilmore Primary while Mark Warner sails through the Democratic primary and General Election.  
-Kentucky Mitch McConnell has a big bank account but we have AG Greg Stumbo as a possible challenger.  He has strong name recognition and the landscape in Kentucky shifted in 2006 like it did almost everywhere else.  
-North Carolina has Elizabeth Dole polling under 50% against Generic Democrats.  All we need is a candidate and this becomes a race worth funding.  
-Nebraska is expecting a Hagel retirement and a possible Bob Kerrey candidacy.  If that's the case this would be a race worth funding.  
-Oklahoma is more hopeful than anything.  Hopefully James Inhofe can bury himself with words.  He's a bumbling old fool.  
-Tennessee has a popular governor's son considering, a lawyer, and someone else all considering.  Lamar Alexander isn't a strong incumbent, average fundraising, one term senator, This could be competitive if the right guy joins and gets the support required.

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-24 09:04PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Alright, I'll hold you by your word. I'll check back with you in 14 months. LOL.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 09:08PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Well remember, it's 5-11 competitive races with a 6-8 seat pickup.  Due to fundraising and candidate recruitment, it looks very possible.

Why would areyouready need another account?  Don't argue.  The "LOL." gives it away completely.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-24 09:21PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

But I'm not areyouready. I felt like laughing. In fact, areyouready has come to my defense a few times.

This is funny.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 09:25PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

It would be pretty easy to come to your own defense, don't you think?  That's a weak way to push off the accusations.  How many people type "lol" like "LOL."?  Not many.  The chances that you and areyouready are the same person are pretty big.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-24 09:35PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Jeremiah are you kidding me? You could check our IP if you like, buddy. The fact is, we're two different people. Are you just pulling my leg here?

"It would be pretty easy to come to your own defense, don't you think?"

Yeah, very easy, but sometimes areyouready gets there first.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 09:46PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

I never reached a high enough level of computer literacy to know how to check IP's.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-24 09:56PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

How many people type "lol" like "LOL."?

Young people like me. It's a different magnitude of laughter.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 09:48PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Really?  Different magnitude of laughter?  

laughing out loud
vs
LAUGHING OUT LOUD

It really doesn't bode as "more laughter" it bodes more as "angry laughter" to me.  Then again it could be
Laughing Out Loud
But that just doesn't seem like what you get from LOL.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-24 09:57PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

You are pulling my leg aren't you?

I'll be honest with you, I had another Screenname, but I changed it because I got a name change. It used to be RJGajadhar, now it is RJEvans. But I'm not areyouready. You could check out areyouready's latest diary, I commented there. This is too funny.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 10:03PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

even though I'll use "lol" once every now and then, I'm almost positive that "areyouready" isn't even 18 yet. He hasn't exactly reached even that maturity level yet.

by KainIIIC 2007-08-24 11:05PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

I'm not sure about areyouready, but I'm 19, and I use a lot of IMs to communicate, so that is where the LOL's come from.

But I assure you, I am NOT areyouready.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 11:10PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

You have to appreciate it though. Democrats hasn't had an opportunity like this in a long time. I just hope we don't screw it up.

by RJEvans 2007-08-24 09:27PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

Also add in Alaska with a corrupt incumbent, New Mexico with a senile and scandalous incumbent, and Texas with a shit-for-brains incumbent as coming up on the radar screen, though I don't know if Tennessee or Oklahoma will be competitive at this point.

In '06 we seriously targetted 8 states (I think you might've forgotten Arizona, because we did give a nice shot there too) and won 6 of them.

Hopefully this time around we can seriously target 12 states and win 9 of them... reaching our magical 60 number.

Though at this point in time, I'm already estimating a 7 seat pickup, and 10 in the House. I'll be firm on my bets too if Edwards is the nominee (which would help lots downticket).

by KainIIIC 2007-08-24 11:09PM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

I did forget about Arizona.  

New Mexico, so far I haven't heard much except a land developer named Don Wiviot, but I haven't heard much since so I'm not sure the establishment is taking his candidacy seriously, making it hard to move forward with that.  

Texas could be competitive, but it's hard to imagine how.  Cornyn is really bad, but Texas is really conservative.  Just have to see how things roll out.  

Alaska seems far-fetched until Knowles or Begich enter the race... Until then... Which puts it with Tennessee.... So I kind of poorly categorized it originally, but yeah.  

We'll have to see how Andrew is recieved in Oklahoma first, I'm thinking January or April we can look into how strong his fundraising is.  Brad Carson ran an okay campaign with 6 million and lost by like 16 points or so.  

10 seems kind of low for the house, but I'm sure you have your reasons for thinking that.  I'm going to bed.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-24 11:23PM | 0 recs
Why is Brian Baird on ActBlue?

Rep. Brian Baird of Washington State is the latest supporter of the Bush war of occupation. Why is he on the Actblue site being endorsed for political contribtions? He is a Bush-dog Democrat if there ever was one.

by cmpnwtr 2007-08-24 09:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Why is Brian Baird on ActBlue?

Stay on topic . . .

by Trowaman 2007-08-25 12:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is Brian Baird on ActBlue?

First we need a Democratic leader.  Then we can pull a lot of these guys in.  

We really should expect moderates in close districts.  Remember, they are elected to represent their district.  

What I don't like about the Bush Dog thing is that you're profiling guys in Republican +15 territory complaining that they aren't with us on the war.  
A. We give the seat to the Republican who never votes with us.
B. We run a moderate who we KNOW will disagree with us on some issues, but votes with us half the time, and possibly win.
C. Run a liberal Democrat and lose the seat.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-25 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: House 2008: Blowback or Another Tidal Wave?

As of today I see three possible scenarios:

1) Worst case scenario = loss of 4-6 seats in the House, gain of 1-2 seats in the Senate, President Romney/Giuliani/Thompson.

2) Most likely scenario = gain of 8-12 seats in the House, gain of 4-6 seats in the Senate, President Clinton.

3) Best case scenario = gain of 20-30 seats in the House, 7-10 seats in the Senate, President Edwards/Obama.

by conspiracy 2007-08-25 10:22AM | 0 recs

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