"Barack Obama has elected more Republicans than any human being in the history of mankind," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) asserted on Fox News on Wednesday night. And despite the hyperbole built into that, he might be right.
Cruz was reacting to a litany of numbers offered by host Sean Hannity detailing the change in Democratic fortunes since 2009. More Republican governors, more senators — and hundreds more state legislators.
The change since 2009 can be seen below — that blue slide downward starting right around the time Obama came into office.
That's nearly 900 fewer Democrats — even before this week's elections.
So has Obama "elected more Republicans than any human being in the history of mankind?" Since the history of Republicans only goes back about 160 years, it makes the question a bit more manageable. And if we're talking raw counts, it's probably safe to say that more Republicans were elected during Obama's presidency than during any past presidency.
Using Klarner's data, we can see the change in state legislatures between the year of a president's inauguration and the year he left office.
It's not at all uncommon for a president's party to lose state legislative seats during his administration. Only Presidents Ford, Reagan and George H. W. Bush saw more of their own party elected than the opposition. And, at least through last year's elections, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the biggest loser, having seen more than 1,000 Democrats gain power at the state level during his two terms.
Eisenhower's record is even worse if you consider the total number of legislators. There weren't as many people serving during Eisenhower's administrations, meaning that the losses during his eight years were a bigger net loss in Republican party density at the state level.
Since the number of states was even smaller in years past, it's safe to assume that Obama's administration has seen the biggest net gain of Republicans at the state level — and since it's in the hundreds, that means he's probably overseen the biggest gain in the number of Republicans overall. (Compiling data on the local level, of course, is prohibitive.)
But that doesn't answer the question of who elected them. It serves Cruz's political purposes to imply that those Republicans won because of Obama. On that first graph above, you'll notice that the Democratic decline followed a Democratic surge. Under President George W. Bush, Democrats picked up hundreds of seats — only to lose them again in the less favorable 2010 election. Democrats essentially overextended themselves after big wins in 2006 and 2008, winning close seats that were then lost during Obama's first term. Is that because of Obama? It's hard to say.
Cruz would have been safer if he'd said, "Barack Obama has overseen the election of more Republicans than any human being in the history of mankind." But that's admittedly not quite as punchy.