The president’s party has lost control of the presidency in three of the last four elections in which gas prices have risen significantly during his time in office .
And over the last 36 years, the president’s party has never made significant gains in Congress in an election year in which the price of gas rose significantly. More often than not, it has lost double-digit seats.
Those cold, hard facts are staring Democrats in the face as rising gas prices continue to color their hopes for reelecting President Obama, retaking the House and keeping control of the Senate.
A Fix review of gas price data since 1976 shows a solid pattern of the president’s party suffering when gas prices rise.
Gas prices increased by at least 50 cents per gallon in 1980, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Only in 2004 did the president’s party retain the White House. (Gas prices as an issue was somewhat on the back burner in 2004 because of the Iraq War and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.)
The picture is even clearer on the congressional front.
Of the nine elections since 1978 in which the price of gas rose in the actual election year, the president’s party lost seats in six of them — with the average loss at 24 seats.
What’s more, in the three elections in which gas prices rose but the president’s party gained seats, the party in power never gained more than three seats, which is essentially a push in the 435-member House.
As for this year, it’s almost certain that gas prices will be significantly higher than they were last election. At the start of the year, gas averaged $3.28 per gallon, and today it’s up to $3.58 — a full 71 cents higher than the peak price in 2010.
In other words, unless gas prices drop dramatically between now and Election Day — which is pretty unlikely — Obama and his party would have to buck history in a pretty significant way in order to keep the presidency and win lots of seats in the House.
Check out the chart we put together illustrating this trend. What stands out to you?