Trump actually did way better than Obama in his first midterm

Ralph Freso/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump
  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday night lost control of the House of Representatives.
  • Democrats seized at least 26 seats to gain a majority that could stymie his agenda and lead to investigation of his administration.
  • But he did way better than then-President Barack Obama in his first midterm election.
  • Presidents almost always lose a few dozen House seats in the midterms.Barack Obama lost 63 in 2010 and Bill Clinton lost 52 in 1994.
  • The elections haven’t all been called yet, but Trump likely lost around 30 House seats, making it a pretty strong showing.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night lost the House of Representatives to the Democrats, who seized at least 26 seats from the Republicans.

A majority-Democrat House threatens to stymie Trump’s agenda and could lead to the investigation of his administration. But, all told, he didn’t do so badly.

In midterm elections, a president’s party loses a handful of seats. For former President Barack Obama, midterm elections in 2010 and 2014 were catastrophic compared to Trump’s moderate losses.

In 2010, Obama lost 63 House seats. Even if every House race undecided at time of publication gets called for the Democrats, Trump will have lost about half as many seats as Obama did during his first midterm.

In 2014, Obama lost just 13 House seats, but he lost them in a House already packed with Republicans. In the end, Democrats held just 188 seats to 247 for Republicans. Additionally, in 2014, Obama lost the Senate.

Trump managed to keep his hold of the Senate, where the Republican majority may even increase. Republicans in this midterm benefited from having only nine seats up for grabs in the senate, compared to 26 for Democrats and the Independents who caucus with them.

Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have hurt Senate Democrats’ ability to campaign by skipping the customary senatorial recess in August.


Read more: They may have lost Florida, but Tuesday’s governor’s races were a major victory for the Democrats

But however Trump and the Republicans did it, they managed to hold up pretty well. Bill Clinton lost 52 House seats in 1994 during his first midterm.

George W. Bush stands as the only recent example of a president gaining seats after his first midterm in 2002, directly in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. Even then, Bush gained just eight House seats and two in the Senate.

“Last night the Republican party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House,’ Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday.

It undoubtedly sounds odd for Trump to call the loss of around 30 House seats a “Big Victory,” as he already has on Twitter. But, given the historical context of midterm elections, the victory here may be in that he suffered a smaller than expected loss.

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