The Democrats are desperate to crash the House and Senate in November, taunting the right that a blue wave is coming their way. Do they even know what is considered a wave in elections?

I guess not because analysis from Ballotpedia shows the Democrats that it’s not just taking over the House and Senate. In order for an actual wave to happen, the Democrats have to win a lot more seats than they need to control Congress.

The Data

Ballotpedia examined “results of the 50 election cycles that occurred between 1918 and 2016. The evidence resulted in the researchers concluding that these wave elections are “the 20 percent of elections in that period resulting in the greatest seat swings against the president’s party.”

This means that the Democrats need to win “48 U.S. House seats, seven U.S. Senate seats, seven gubernatorial seats, and 494 state legislative seats” in November.

Report author spoke to The Washington Free Beacon:

Robert Oldham, a staff writer on Ballotpedia’s Marquee Team and one of the report’s authors, told the Washington Free Beacon there is a reason why wave elections are not a frequent occurrence in American politics.

“We were working from the idea that if waves can be defined, and that’s a big if, they should be significant and relatively rare historical events,” Oldham said. “We looked at the last 100 years of election data and found that 1 in 5 elections [can be deemed] waves.”


In the 50 elections Ballotpedia looked at, a wave only occurred only 11 times. Under Republican President Herbert Hoover in 1930, the GOP lost 97 seats. The Democrats lost 48 seats in 1966 under Democrat President President Lyndon Johnson. The GOP flipped 63 seats in 2010 in President Barack Obama’s first term.

Via Ballotpedia

The Democrats need seven Senate seats for their wave. Ballotpedia found that a “president’s party lost seven or more U.S. Senate seats in 10 of the 48 Senate elections since 1918.”

GOP presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Ronald Reagan lost seats. Hoover lost a further 13 seats in 1932.

Via Ballotpedia

Now if the Democrats want a blue wave then November is the time to do it because the majority of the actual waves that happened took place in a president’s first term:

Wave elections occur disproportionately in first and second midterm elections.

First midterm elections account for 30 percent of elections since 1918, but they comprise more than 30 percent of wave elections for the U.S. House (54.6 percent), gubernatorial races (72.7 percent), state legislatures (40.0 percent), and composite scores (50.0 percent).

Second midterm elections account for 18 percent of elections since 1918, but they comprise more than 18 percent of wave elections for the U.S. Senate (30.0 percent), state legislatures (30.0 percent), and composite scores (20.0 percent).

Presidential elections account for 50 percent of elections since 1918, but they comprise less than 50 percent of wave elections for the U.S. House (18.2 percent), U.S. Senate (30.0 percent), gubernatorial races (18.2 percent), state legislatures (30.0 percent), and composite scores (30.0 percent).

The chart below compares each election type’s representation among the 10 or 11 wave elections to the election type’s representation among all 50 elections (which is listed in the top row). Percentages for Election type, House waves, and Senate waves do not add to 100 percent because Franklin Roosevelt had a third midterm election in 1942 where House and Senate waves occurred.

Via Ballotpedia

Can the Democrats at Least Make a Dent?

The Washington Free Beacon said the midterms on paper “seem to favor the Democratic Party,” especially since 60 GOP House members have announced their retirement. These moves mean the GOP needs “to defend 50 open seats this cycle, compared to 20 for the Democrats.”

The map on The Cook Political Report looks like the GOP shouldn’t have too much of a problem defending the House:

Via The Cook Political Report

The Cook Political Report published its House At-A-Glance report on June 27. A few I found interesting:

Rep. Martha McSally (R) in Arizona’s 2nd District is running for Senate and the report has her seat leaning Democrats.

Rep. Jeff Dunham (R) in California’s 10th District is a tossup.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R) in California’s 49th District leans Democrat.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) in Florida’s 26th District is a toss up while the district of his colleague Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) leans Democrat.

Rep. Rick Nolan (D) in Minnesota’s 8th District is a tossup.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) in New Jersey’s 2nd District is likely Democrat.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) in New Jersey’s 11th district leans Democrat.

Pennsylvania’s 5th, 6th, and 7th District has a GOP representative, but the report has the first two as likely Democrat and the other as lean Democrat.

Rep. Conor Lamb (D) in Pennsylvania’s 14th District is likely Republican.


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