The Washington Post

This chart shows why President Obama is going to be a drag on Democrats this fall

President Obama isn't on the ballot this fall.

But, unless something drastic changes between now and November, Obama's problematic poll numbers will complicate -- but not doom -- his party hopes of holding onto its Senate majority. That's because one of the strongest predictors of seat gains (or losses) in midterm elections is the job approval numbers of the sitting President. The better his numbers, the better his party does -- or, more accurately, the less worse his party does -- in the fight for control of Congress. The worst his numbers, well, you get the idea.

This chart, put together by Fix friend Bruce Mehlman, a lobbyist with the firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas, tells that story. (The numbers Mehlman uses for presidential approval are from Gallup.)

Image courtesy of Bruce Mehlman

Put simply: Once a presidents's job approval numbers slip below 50 percent, bad things start happening for his party in Congress.  In the six midterm elections since 1974 where the president's job approval was sub-50 percent, the average seat loss in the House was 39.  In the Senate, the average was  a 4.5 seat loss.

That's bad news for Democrats. But, context matters here. Because of the Republican wave election of 2010 and the subsequent national redistricting process, there simply aren't all that many House seats left for Republicans to logically target.  (There are only 26 seats held by a House member not of the party who carried the district in the 2012 presidential race.) So, because House Democrats have already lost so much, losing more isn't likely.

In the Senate, Democrats would gladly take a four or even a five seat loss (as historical trends suggest they will endure) because it would mean they would retain control of the Senate -- albeit it narrowly.

President Obama will be a drag on Democrats this fall. He won't -- at least according to Mehlman's data -- be the anchor that drags his party under.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Play Videos
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
The rise and fall of baseball cards
How to keep your child safe in the water
Play Videos
'Did you fall from heaven?': D.C.'s pick-up lines
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
How to get organized for back to school
How to buy a car via e-mail
The signature drink of New Orleans
Next Story
Philip Bump · July 15, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.