What if 2010 is Like 1982?

I want to loop back and write a little bit more about something I touched on earlier this week: That if the 2010 midterms look like the 1982 midterms -- which isn't inconceivable considering that Barack Obama's approval rating today looks a lot like Ronald Reagan's did at the same point in the 1982 cycle -- it wouldn't be terrible news for the Democrats.

Chuck Todd, among others, has written that close Senate elections in a given year don't tend to split evenly between the two parties, but rather that one party manages to win virtually all the close races. "Check out the competitive races from the last five cycles," Todd writes. "It's a remarkable pattern."

Todd is largely right -- close Senate elections do tend to break in one party's favor. In 2008, Democrats won seven of the eight contests decided by fewer than 10 percentage points; in 2006, they won five of seven; in 2000, they won seven of 10; and in 2004, Republicans won seven of eight such races. (The 2002 elections, when the Republicans won six of ten single-digit elections, is somewhat of an exception to this general rule).

But it's worth looking back to the 1982 midterm elections to bear out an exceedingly important point that is overlooked when reciting the general rule that close Senate elections tend to break in a particular party's favor: The party winning the close elections isn't necessarily the one you might expect.

The 1982 midterm elections saw a whopping 11 Senate elections decided by fewer than 10 percentage points. Considering that Ronald Reagan's approval rating lagged at 43 percent and that the economy, while improving, was still in the doldrums, one might have expected most of these races to have broken in favor of the opposition Democrats. Indeed, in House elections that year, the Democrats were able to capitalize, picking up a net 26 seats.

Yet come election day, the races didn't break overwhelmingly in the Democrats' favor. In fact, the opposite occurred, with Reagan's Republicans winning nine of 11 single-digit Senate elections. Take a look:

Republican WinDemocratic Win
California: Pete Wilson 51.5/Jerry Brown 44.8New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg 50.9/Millicent Fenwich 47.8
Connecticut: Lowell Weicker 50.4/Toby Moffett 46.1New Mexico: Jeff Bingaman 53.8/Harrison Schmitt 46.2
Indiana: Richard Lugar 53.8/Floyd Fithian 45.6
Minnesota: Dave Durenberger 52.6/Mark Dayton 46.6
Missouri: John Danforth 50.8/Harriet Woods 49.1
Nevada: Chic Hecht 50.1/Howard Cannon 47.7
Rhode Island: John Chafee 51.2/Julius Michaelson 48.8
Vermont: Robert Stafford 50.3/James Guest 47.2
Virginia: Paul trible 51.2/Richard Joseph Davis 48.8

Going into November 1982, there was little reason to believe that the close races would swing for the GOP. The Democrats had strong candidates in most of these states -- a Governor, Jerry Brown; an elected state Attorney General, Julius Michaelson; an elected Lieutenant Governor, Richard Joseph Davis; an elected Secretary of State, James Guest; and multiple-term Congressmen Toby Moffett and Floyd Fithian. Reagan's numbers, as noted above, were in the tank, and the economy was still weak.

But the races mostly swung away from the opposition Democrats. After all the dust settled, the Senate remained firmly in control of the Republicans.

So close Senate races do tend to trend towards one party in a particular cycle, though not every year (see: 2002). When they do, it's not always to the party you might expect. Sometimes this trend can actually help the party in power, even when that party is headed by a President with an approval rating in the low-40s at a time when the economy is still weaker than expected.

Tags: Barack Obama, House 2010, Senate 2010, Ronald Reagan, Approval Rating, 1982 (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Minnesota was exceptionally surprising

being a state where at the time Reagan was considered toxic, he went in to campaign for Durenberger in the last weeks and Democrats thought they had it sealed.

Dems had expected to sweep the close New England states too (CT, RI, VT), but thought they'd lose New Jersey.

 

by ND22 2010-01-08 03:12PM | 0 recs
I have been writing about the parallel

to 1982 for a while.  Take a look at two tables.  I put them together to examing the relationship between Presidential Approval, GDP Growth and the Economy as it emerges from Recession.  What bothers me the most is the parallel to 1992, where economic growth was restored but unemployment continued to rise.  As a result, Bush's approval ratings continued to fall.  Most economists are predicting the same sort of recovery in 2010.

By contrast, in 1983 the recovery led to declines in unemployment.  As a result, by the end of 1983 Reagan's approval ratings went well above 55.

<a href="http://s140.photobucket.com/albums/r28/fladem/?action=view&amp;current=gdpreagan2.gif" target="_blank"><img src="http://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r28/fladem/gdpreagan2.gif" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

<a href="http://s140.photobucket.com/albums/r28/fladem/?action=view&amp;current=Bush.gif" target="_blank"><img src="http://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r28/fladem/Bush.gif" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

by fladem 2010-01-08 03:50PM | 0 recs
RE: I have been writing about the parallel

 

The images did not display in line as they used to...

Here are the numbers for Reagan.  Approval ratings are from CBS/NTY polls.

Here are the number for Bush. Note in particular that Bush's numbers continued to fall long after GDP grwoth returned.  Unemployment, not GDP growth is what matters.

 

 

by fladem 2010-01-08 03:59PM | 0 recs
Still

the unemployment rate at the end of 1983 was still over 8%. It was over 10% until June 1983 and only started falling precipiously in late summer.

We saw double digit unemployment for nine months; Sept 1982-June 1983.

2010 looks more like 1983 than 1982, and if that's the case, it's much better for us.

by ND22 2010-01-08 04:10PM | 0 recs
I know it's OT ...

but interesting new design here .. wow!! ... and anyway .. when was the last time Chuck Todd or Charlie Cook were right?  What's their batting average anyway .. especially this far out

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2010-01-08 03:57PM | 0 recs
2010 may look more like 1934

Voters blamed Republicans for the Great Depression, and they will blame them again for the 2008 global recession.  Here are some points to also keep in mind as we look toward November;

During 2010, jobs will be at the top of Obama’s agenda.  I dare the Republicans to come between the American People and jobs like they did for so long with health care.  Also, we will be playing offense with jobs, and will not be waiting month after month for Republicans to come on board.

Two thirds of the stimulus money has not yet been spent.  I would look forward to it being spent in ways that will please a great many Democrats and Independents.

Two years after FDR won in 1932, because Republicans would not go along with Roosevelt’s jobs and recovery program, they lost House and Senate seats in 1934.  

Don't underestimate the effect of the collapse of the Conservative Republican economic ideology.  Until last fall, Republicans’ "we can’t raise taxes" and "we need less regulation and more deregulation" mantras were somewhat plausible to many voters.  Those two major lines of attack are now DOA, and few voters will think Republicans will be better at creating jobs and restoring economic prosperity than Democrats.

Voters are already completely fed up with Republican obstructionism in the House and Senate.  If Republicans go along with Obama, Obama will pass a lot of legislation and our House and Senate candidates will be rewarded in November.  If Republicans obstruct, voters will seek revenge.  Republicans are in a lose-lose situation.

The Democratic Party campaign committees and candidates are strongly out-fundraising their Republican counterparts.

Obama had an historic voter registration and GOTV drive in 2008, and he will have an equally historic drive ready for 2010.  

Research 2000’s recent 1/4-7 tracking poll had our Democratic Congress approval at 41 percent favorable and the Republican Congress approval at 18 percent favorable.  The electorate does not see Republicans as representing the "right track."

One factor almost everyone is ignoring is that Obama and the Democrats played defense all through 2009 to pass heal care reform.  After the State of the Union address they will shift to offense on jobs and the economy, and that will bring Senate polling back to where it was in March 2009 when Nate Silver placed Republicans in 7 of the 8 Senate seats most likely to turn over in 2010.

Bottom line; Voters will blame Republicans for wrecking our economy, and severely punish them for not having learned their lesson and for continuing to tout their same tired, failed economic policies.  This might be lost to the pundits until later this year, but Democrats will probably gain seats in both chambers. 

 

 

by Georgeo57 2010-01-08 05:39PM | 0 recs
The cluelessness of the American people never ceases to amaze me

I can fathom a situation where the Republicans hold up a jobs bill and it works, especially with the media pimping them, I can see a "Democrats are purposely killing the economy so they can convince you to support their socialist policies" meme catching fire.

 

 

by ND22 2010-01-08 06:10PM | 0 recs

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