And yet, as political scientist Sam Wang noted on Twitter, the Republican popular vote margin in 2010 was smaller than the Democratic margin this year. Republicans had a 7.2 percent edge then, compared with the currently predicted Democratic edge of 9.2 percent. And yet, for the GOP, that edge translated into a gain of nearly twice as many seats.
Whatever the reasons for the red wave, President Barack Obama had no choice but to reckon with it. “Some election nights are more fun than others, some are exhilarating,” he joked the day after the 2010 midterms. “Some are humbling.” The House results had been nothing less than a “shellacking,” he said, and he vowed to work with Republicans on a bipartisan basis moving forward.
The same pattern held true in the previous midterm elections, when Democrats retook both houses of Congress in what conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer called “the great Democratic wave of 2006.” The party picked up six seats in the Senate, bringing the chamber to a 49-49 tie that gave them effective control, thanks to the support of two independents. In the House, meanwhile, Democrats gained 31 seats to take control by a new margin of 233-202. (This is remarkably similar to this year’s results, in which Democrats are predicted to gain anywhere between 28 and 38 seats and take control with a margin between 223-212 and 232-203.)