We are now in the seventh year of a Democratic cycle. So what is the Democrats’ best case scenario? While there is never a guarantee, a Democratic presidential victory in 2016 might facilitate some gains down-ballot, but these would likely be muted. Although it is quite possible that the Senate could return to the Democrats, it would be quite unlikely for them to win the 29 House seats needed to reclaim a majority in the lower chamber. Moreover, most governorships will not be up for grabs. While gains in state legislative seats would probably follow for Democrats, it is unlikely that they would come in large numbers.
Flash forward two more years, to 2018, and Democrats would still face the voters’ relentless impulse to hedge—which would probably facilitate Republican gains. Given the landscape in the Senate in 2018—where Democrats will have to defend a mind-boggling 25 of 33 seats—Democratic losses could be substantial in the upper chamber.
And there remains the specter of a recession. Economists are not projecting a downturn in 2015 or 2016. (As late as September 2008, economists polled by the Wall Street Journal still thought that the economy would grow at a 1.5 percent rate that year!) But a recession will come sooner or later. If the past is a guide, we are probably closer to the start of the next recession than we are to the end of the last one. What will Democrats do if they hold the White House during the next economic downturn?
The answer is simple: They will lose.