The final Gallup Poll before President Obama’s first midterm elections Tuesday indicates Republicans are poised to reap historic gains in the House of Representatives, possibly electing twice as many new members as they need to seize control of the chamber where financial legislation originates.
Gallup’s latest findings this morning predict Republicans will easily gain the necessary 39 seats to seize control of the House regardless of voter turnout. They predict a minimum GOP gain of 60 seats “with gains well beyond that possible.” That kind of rout would be the worst shellacking of a president’s party in a half-century.
For comparison, the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994 saw the party….
…gain 54 House seats in Bill Clinton’s first midterm, previously the largest loss by a president’s party in 50 years.
The final poll of 1,539 likely voters finds 52-55% preferring the GOP generic congressional candidate while only 40-42% prefer the Democrat. The range is due to turnout variables.
Gallup notes that the unprecedented 15-point gap in favor of Republican candidates on its latest generic congressional ballot tally “could result in the largest Republican margin in House voting in several generations.” The surge is so large, Gallup says, “that seat projections have moved into uncharted territory.”
Before 1994, the largest party switches occurred with 55 seats in 1942 and 71 seats in 1938, long before state legislatures began redrawing congressional districts each decade to ensure incumbents’ safe reelection, reducing such large swings.
Historically, the largest membership swing ever was in 1894, another time of economic uncertainty during another Democratic administration (Grover Cleveland).
That year Republicans went from 124 House seats to 254, a jump of 130 members in a total chamber membership then of 357. Only two presidents have gained House seats in their first midterms — George W. Bush in 2002 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1934.
If such a GOP wave materializes Tuesday, it will be a humiliating defeat for the former state senator from Illinois and his Delaware vice president, Joe Biden, who has guaranteed Democratic congressional victories even more often than he guaranteed a broad economic recovery last summer. Both men and their wives have spent recent weeks criss-crossing the country raising money, urging voter turnout and the need for more change while warning of Republican victories.
Indeed, despite the president’s near-constant campaigning in recent weeks (see video below), dissatisfaction with Obama’s oft-promised but lame job creation and economic recovery from hundreds of billions in stimulus spending appears to be the main stimulus driving GOP energies and the widespread defections of independents, who formed a crucial part of Obama’s winning electoral coalition just 24 months ago. That and concern over continuing spending and mounting federal deficits and national debt.
Republican control of the House come early January would retire California’s Nancy Pelosi as speaker and create a back-to-the-future scenario with her handing back the oversized gavel to Ohio’s John Boehner, who had turned it over to her in 2007. (see photo) Boehner has promised to enforce a fiscal conservatism this time.
As recently as Saturday Boehner vowed, “We are ready to put in place strict budget caps that limit spending from here on out, to ensure that Washington no longer is on this spending binge.”
This sets the stage for a potentially stark political confrontation over government spending during the next two years leading up to the 2012 presidential campaign. The good news for both sides is that they’ll both have each other to blame.