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Sixth-Year Jinx


The sixth year of an administration has rarely been kind to the party occupying the White House. The President's party has historically been clobbered after 6 consecutive years of power. There are too many accumulated grievances and people tend to blame the President and his party. The table below shows the 6th year of all the two-term administrations since Wilson, counting Harding/Coolidge, Roosevelt/Truman, Kennedy/Johnson, and Nixon/Ford as single administrations (in all cases it was a President/Vice President combo). The Greek letter Δ is used by statisticians to mean "change," in this case since the previous election. The purple columns show the net gain/loss for the White House for both the Senate and House. It is not a zero-sum game due to gains and losses of third parties. The only administration not to lose Senate was Clinton in 1998, probably because so many people were angrier with the Republicans for impeaching Clinton than for what Clinton actually did, but even he lost House seats.

Thus based on historical precedent going back almost 100 years, we should expect the Democrats to pick up six seats in the Senate and 31 in the House, not far at all from what most experts are predicting.

   
Senate
House
Year President Δ Dem Δ GOP Δ WH Δ Dem Δ GOP Δ WH
1998 Clinton 0 0 0 -5 5 -5
1986 Reagan 8 -8 -8 5 -5 -5
1974 Ford 5 -5 -5 49 -48 -48
1966 Johnson -4 4 -4 -47 47 -47
1958 Eisenhower 15 -13 -13 49 -48 -48
1950 Truman -6 5 -6 -29 28 -29
1938 Roosevelt -6 6 -6 -71 80 -71
1926 Coolidge 7 -6 -6 12 -10 -10
1918 Wilson -6 6 -6 -19 21 -19
Mean       -6     -31

Breakdown of the Senate and House elections by party since 1912 are available in Excel format and csv format.


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