An incumbent president’s political party tends to lose ground in Congress and on the state level during their tenure. And President Obama’s is no exception, losing the most ground. Below, a look at how presidents’ tenures have affected their own parties’ fates over the course of their time in the Oval Office.

[ Obama, who once stood as party outsider, now works to strengthen Democrats]

State

legislative

chambers

controlled

Governors

Senate

House

-2

-7

-7

-8

-9

-11

-11

-13

-13

-18

-19

-32

Note: Only two-term presidents shown.

-42

-45

-69

GOVERNORS

-2

Reagan

-11

Clinton

-7

G.W. Bush

Obama

-11

SENATE

-8

Reagan

-7

Clinton

G.W. Bush

-9

Note: Only two-term presidents shown.

Obama

-13

HOUSE

-19

Reagan

-45

Clinton

G.W. Bush

-42

Obama

-69

STATE LEGISLATIVE CHAMBERS CONTROLLED

Reagan

-7

Clinton

-18

G.W. Bush

-13

Obama

-32

University of Virginia professor Larry J. Sabato and his team at its Center for Politics analyzed House, Senate and state-level political positions under two-term presidents. (One-term presidents don’t have as much of a track record to compare.) The center’s findings highlight Ronald Reagan having the best record, while still experiencing losses, and Obama having the worst thus far. Some presidents have been able to recover a portion of their losses, however.

In the early 1950s, President Harry S. Truman inherited President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s nearly evenly divided House of Representatives. The Democratic Party lost 12.8 percent of its House standing before his reelection. He was able to gain back just over ten percent before he left office.

House of Representatives party control

EVEN

Majority

party

79th

Congress

Truman

Reps

-9

Eisenhower

-68

JFK

*

Johnson

-12

Nixon

-12

Ford

-48

Carter

-13

Reagan

-15

H.W. Bush

-6

Clinton

-47

G.W. Bush

-18

Obama

-69

114th

Congress

Sharing a similar pattern to President

Clinton in House party majority control,

President Obama has seen a 15.8 percent

drop in Democratic representatives.

Senate party control

Majority

party

EVEN

79th

Congress

Truman

-8

Senators

Eisenhower

-12

JFK

*

Johnson

-2

Nixon

+1

Ford

-5

Carter

-3

Reagan

-8

H.W. Bush

-1

Clinton

-12

G.W. Bush

+1*

Obama

-13

114th

Congress

*Taking office with an evenly divided chamber, President George W. Bush lost the Senate by the end of his presidency. Although he technically gained a Republican senator, there were two independents who caucused with Democrats.

79th

Congress

114th

Congress

House of Representatives party control

Truman

Eisenhower

Johnson

Nixon

Ford

Carter

Reagan

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

Bush

JFK

R

D

*

-68

-12

-12

-48

-13

-15

-6

-47

-18

-69

-9

Representatives

Sharing a similar pattern to President Clinton in

House party majority control, President Obama has seen a

15.8 percent drop in Democratic representatives.

Majority

party

79th

Congress

114th

Congress

Senate party control

Truman

Eisenhower

Johnson

Nixon

Ford

Carter

Reagan

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

Bush

JFK

R

D

*

-8

-2

-3

-12

+1

-5

-8

-1

-12

+1

-13

Senators

Taking office with an evenly divided chamber,

President George W. Bush lost the Senate by the end of his presidency. Although he technically gained a Republican senator, there were two independents who caucused with Democrats.

President Nixon saw a

net increase of one senator

during his tenure.

House of Representatives party control

Truman

Eisenhower

Johnson

Nixon

Ford

Carter

Reagan

H.W. Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

JFK

79th

Congress

114th

Congress

R

EVEN

D

Majority

party

-12

-13

-68

-12

-48

-15

-6

-47

-18

-69

-9

*

Representatives

Sharing a similar pattern to President Clinton in

House party majority control, President Obama has seen a

15.8 percent drop in Democratic representatives.

Senate party control

Truman

Eisenhower

Johnson

Nixon

Ford

Carter

Reagan

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

H.W. Bush

JFK

79th

Congress

114th

Congress

R

EVEN

D

Majority

party

-8

*

-2

-3

-12

+1

-5

-8

-1

-12

+1

-13

Senators

Taking office with an evenly divided chamber,

President George W. Bush lost the Senate by the end of his presidency. Although he technically gained a Republican senator, there were two independents who caucused with Democrats.

President Nixon saw a net increase of

one senator during his tenure.

Among the regions of the United States, the South has experienced the largest flip of political-party power since Reagan’s presidency. There are 12 states with Democratic-majority state legislatures, 15 fewer than when Obama entered office. Thirty with Republican majorities. Seven states have a split House and Senate. Nebraska is unique in that it has a unicameral nonpartisan legislature.

State legislature party

control by state and presidency

 

Republican-controlled

House and Senate

Split House

and Senate

Democratic-controlled

House and Senate

NORTHEAST

1982

2016

Reagan

Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

CT

ME

MA

NH

NJ

NY

PA

RI

VT

New England has a reputation for leaning left.

New Hampshire is an anomaly in this region.

MIDWEST

Reagan

Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

IL

IN

IA

KS

MI

MO

MN

NE

ND

OH

SD

WI

The starting point for U.S. primaries, Iowa’s

political stance rarely has the same party

majority throughout an entire presidency.

WEST

Reagan

Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

AK

AZ

CA

CO

HI

ID

MT

NV

NM

OR

UT

WA

WY

California, Hawaii, Utah and Wyoming have

remained under one party control since

Reagan entered office.

SOUTH

Reagan

Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

AL

AR

DE

FL

GA

KY

LA

MD

MS

NC

OK

SC

TN

TX

VA

WV

The only Southern states to remain under

Democratic control are Maryland and Delaware,

at the very edge of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Republican-controlled

House and Senate

State legislature

party control by state

and presidency

 

Split House

and Senate

Democratic-controlled

House and Senate

NORTHEAST

Reagan

H.W. Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

Conn.

Maine

Mass.

N.H.

N.J.

N.Y.

Pa.

R.I.

Vt.

1982

’88

’90

’92

’94

’00

’02

’08

’10

2016

New England has a reputation for leaning left.

New Hampshire is an anomaly in this region.

MIDWEST

Reagan

H.W. Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

Ill.

Ind.

Iowa

Kan.

Mich.

Mo.

Minn.

Neb.

N.D.

Ohio

S.D.

Wis.

1982

’88

’90

’92

’94

’00

’02

’08

’10

2016

The starting point for U.S. primaries, Iowa’s political stance rarely

has the same party majority throughout an entire presidency.

WEST

Reagan

H.W. Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

Alaska

Ariz.

Calif.

Colo.

Hawaii

Idaho

Mt.

Nev.

N.M.

Ore.

Utah

Wash.

Wyo.

1982

’88

’90

’92

’94

’00

’02

’08

’10

2016

California, Hawaii, Utah and Wyoming have remained under

one party control since Reagan entered office.

SOUTH

Reagan

H.W. Bush

Clinton

G.W. Bush

Obama

Ala.

Ark.

Del.

Fla.

Ga.

Ky.

La.

Md.

Miss.

N.C.

Okla.

S.C.

Tenn.

Tex.

Va.

W.Va.

1982

’88

’90

’92

’94

’00

’02

’08

’10

2016

The only Southern states to remain under Democratic control are

Maryland and Delaware, at the very edge of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The new president is likely to inherit Republican-controlled Congress and state legislatures. If past patterns hold true, the president's party is likely to lose seats during his or her term.

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