Green Room

2010 Mid-Term Elections – post-WWII Historical Benchmarks

posted at 10:17 pm on November 1, 2010 by

To better help readers put tomorrow’s election into context, here are four historical benchmarks to compare, once we get the full magnitude of the current Republican victory.

Note: Figures updated to take into account the fact (which I previously forgot) that Alaska and Hawaii were not admitted to the Union until 1959; so the U.S. Senate had only 96 senators before 1959.

Since the House of Representatives has 435 seats (and has since 1913), compared to the Senate’s 100 (post-1959) or 96 (pre-1959), one Senate seat “equals” 4.35 House seats (post-1959) or 4.53125 (pre-1959), in a numerical sense. Therefore, I have combine the pickups in the two chambers of Congress by that formula: The total number of House seats won, plus 4.35 (or 4.53125) X the number of Senate seats won, equals the “win-factor” of that election. Since that gives us a single number measuring the sweep of an electoral victory, we can use it to rank them.

Here are the top five post-War historical benchmarks in countdown order, based on win-factor:

  1. 1974 mid-terms: Democrats gain 49 House seats and 3 Senate seats; win-factor = 62.1
  2. 1994 mid-terms: Republicans gain 54 House seats and 8 Senate seats; win-factor = 88.8
  3. 1946 mid-terms: Republicans gain 55 House seats and 12 Senate seats; win-factor = 109.4
  4. 1948 presidential: Democrats gain 75 House seats and 9 Senate seats; win-factor = 115.8
  5. 1958 mid-terms: Democrats gain 49 House seats and 16 Senate seats; win-factor = 121.5

(1958 was kind of an oddball election; it’s only number one because of the enormous pickup in the Senate.)

So what would it take for this election to grab the top spot, the biggest pickup of the entire post-War era? Here are a few examples; for each number of Senate pickups, I list the minimum number of House seats to break the 1958 record:

  • 8 Senate seats and 87 House seats (win-factor = 121.8)
  • 9 Senate seats and 83 House seats (win-factor = 122.2)
  • 10 Senate seats and 79 House seats (win-factor = 122.5) — 78 House seats would exactly equal the 1958 record
  • 11 Senate seats and 74 House seats (win-factor = 121.9)
  • 12 Senate seats and 70 House seats (win-factor = 122.2)

Submitted for your viewing pleasure. Wagering is encouraged. And remember: If you must drink, drive responsibly.

Pop that corn, kick back, and enjoy those returns!

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

Recently in the Green Room:



Trackback URL


Since the House of Representatives has 435 seats (and has since 1913), compared to the Senate’s 100, one Senate seat “equals” 4.35 House seats, in a numerical sense.

Your equation, of course, but I’d probably make a Senate seat the equivalent to 3 House seats, since a Senator is elected for 6 years instead of 2 (and 1/3 of the Senate is up for election in any given election year).

malclave on November 2, 2010 at 12:14 AM

I second malclave on November 2, 2010 at 12:14 AM

The other dynamic that will, historically understate what many of us hope will happen is the gerrymandering of House districts; by 2010, flipping a district that has been of a certain party for more than a term or three is quite a feat.

ParisParamus on November 2, 2010 at 2:44 AM

Don’t forget that here in Texas, we will be picking up four house seats. The redistricting there will hopefully cause four more Republicans to be elected. Those seats were mostly lost from Democratic states, (hey, people vote with their feet too!) so this shift will hopefully ensconce the new Republican Majority into the House for some time to come. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Theophile on November 2, 2010 at 5:24 PM