WASHINGTON -- Democrats have a reasonable shot at avoiding the “sixth-year curse” that usually hits the president’s party in midterm elections, but they’re unlikely to recapture control of the House, according to an early forecast from a prominent political scientist.
Since the start of the 20th century, eight midterm elections have taken place in a president’s second term. In all but one case, the president’s party lost seats, with the one exception occurring in Bill Clinton’s second term. More than just a statistical oddity, the pattern reflects important dynamics in the electorate, including the fact that “opposition party voters are usually more motivated to turn out to express their discontent with the president and his party than voters from the president’s party are to turn out to express their support,” says Emory University political scientist Alan I. Abramowitz.
Another factor is that the president’s party often has made significant gains in previous elections, meaning that by the second midterm, the party has many seats at risk. Because the Democrats lost so many seats in 2010, that’s less true for them this time around.
The forecasting model Abramowitz has developed currently predicts that Democrats would pick up one House seat in the 2014 midterms. They would need a net of 17 seats to regain control of the House.