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Lose One House, Win Another

A White House loss in 2016 could lead to more favorable midterms

Democrats may prioritize getting Hillary Clinton into the White House this year but a terrible 2018 for the party could have much longer consequences in the House. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democrats may prioritize getting Hillary Clinton into the White House this year but a terrible 2018 for the party could have much longer consequences in the House. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Some Democrats are downright giddy about facing Donald Trump and his sizable unfavorable ratings in November. But the party may need to lose the presidential election in order to have a chance of controlling the House at some point over the next decade.  

If Hillary Clinton is elected president this year, the 2018 midterm elections are likely to be terrible for the Democratic Party. It would be the third consecutive midterm for a Democratic president, and easy for Republicans to make a check-and-balance argument  

Over the last 80 years, the president’s party gained House seats just twice (1998 and 2002) and lost an average of 33 seats in the other 18 midterm elections going back to 1938.  

That means even if Democrats gain the House majority in November, they will be early underdogs to hold that majority just two years later. (The same thing can also be said for the Senate.)  



[Related: The Seats Democrats Must Win to Retake House]

While most Democrats prioritize keeping the White House, a terrible 2018 for President Clinton’s party could have much longer consequences in the House.  

For the last four years, Democrats have complained about the most recent redistricting process, specifically about GOP-drawn congressional maps in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia (to name a few), which were artistically drawn to narrow the universe of competitive congressional districts. The party has already begun preparations for the next round of electoral cartography scheduled for after the 2020 elections.  

Subsequent court rulings altered the maps in the latter three states, but Democrats still believe the maps are unfair because the partisan breakdown of the delegation doesn’t match the competitiveness of the states.  



[Related: Senate Democrats, 2018 Math Is Not Your Friend]

Even though 2018 is not the election immediately preceding the next round of redistricting, it is the last large batch of gubernatorial races before the next census and reapportionment. Thirty-six states will elect a governor in 2018 and many of those governors will have veto power over congressional maps and won’t be up for re-election until after the redistricting is complete.  

Just 13 states will elect a governor in 2020, which could also be a challenging election for Democrats depending on President Clinton’s job approval rating after her first term.  

The bottom line is that if Republicans make gains in governorships and state legislatures in 2018 and 2020, or at least make up much of the ground they are expected to lose in 2016 , the GOP could make it difficult for Democrats to regain the House for another decade.  



[Related: The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call Race Ratings Map]



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