Democrats Unlikely To Take Over House In 2014

Nate Silver explains why: 

That Mr. Obama won the presidency by a relatively narrow margin this year and that Democrats do not control the House would argue against a wave election this year. Still, the more likely situation is losses rather than gains for Democrats, based on the historical record. And a 17-seat gain would strongly defy historical precedent.

Nor did Democrats come especially close to winning the House in 2012, once one examines the results from individual races more carefully.

This year, there were only 11 House seats that Democrats lost by five or fewer percentage points. Thus, even if they had performed five points better across the board, they would still have come up six seats short of controlling the chamber.

In other words, Democrats would have to perform quite a bit better in House races in 2014 than they did in 2012 to win control of the chamber – when usually the president’s party does quite a bit worse instead.

One should never say never when it comes to forecasting the outcome of an election two years in advance. But it might take a major scandal in the Republican party, or for Republicans to splinter into factions, for Democrats to have more than a remote chance of winning the House.

And there is one more factor working against Democrats: they have become increasingly reliant upon voters, like Hispanics and those under the age of 30, who do not turn out reliably in midterm election years. Democrats have a broader coalition than Republicans do in high-turnout environments, so perhaps this will benefit them in 2016. But these are not the voters you would want to depend upon to make gains in midterm election years, when turnout is much lower.

Also of concern to the Democrats is the fact that the list of Senators up for re-election in 2014 includes seven Senators in states that Mitt Romney won this year and one in a swing state, Virginia, that may end up being vacant if Mark Warner decides to run for Governor next year as many here in the Commonwealth believe he might. By contrast, all of the Republican Senators up for re-election but one, Susan Collins, running in a solid red state. If history is any guide, the incumbent President’s party is likely to lose seats in Congress in 2014 rather than gain them.

FILED UNDER: Congress, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    If Republicans prove themselves good pragmatists in this Congress, I won’t mind them winning.

    If they behave badly, and yet retain a following, that will be kinda sad.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But it might take a major scandal in the Republican party, or for Republicans to splinter into factions, for Democrats to have more than a remote chance of winning the House.

    Even both might not be enough.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Individual candidates win elections not political parties. Politics is local.

    If the Republican Party insists on running awful candidates, they’ll lose seats even in a year they were expected to gain. If the Democrats run good candidates, they’ll win in a year they’re expected to lose.

  4. Gustopher says:

    The Republicans were very, very good at gerrymandering congressional districts after the last census, so they got a majority of the House this year, despite not getting the majority of the votes cast for the House.

    So, for Democrats to gain seats, they would likely need a wave election.

    But, if the next two years are filled with weird, offensive comments about rape, it’s possible. A wave of revulsion election.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    So we’re pretty much stuck with a Democratic executive and senate but the GOP owns an ungovernable House because of gerrymandering and extremists dominating the midterms? That doesn’t seem sustainable.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    The reference to Mark Warner possibly wanting to run for Governor of Virginia brought me up short because my first reaction was to recall that I used to live In Richmond and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would go out of his way to be stuck there.

    Then I broadened it out, thinking of all these jobs: senator, congressman, governor, mayor. Why would any rational, accomplished human being want these jobs? They don’t pay very well, you spend your days begging people for money, you lose your privacy, you’re stuck hanging out with pompous jerks, and in the end what have you accomplished?

    They’re the kinds of jobs that in a rational universe we’d fill by draft. “Bad news, Frank, your number came up so you have to be governor of South Dakota for four years. Yeah, that means living in Pierre where Applebee’s is considered haute cuisine. Sorry, man.”

  7. @michael reynolds:

    Why would any rational, accomplished human being want these jobs?

    Have you seen our politicians? What makes you think rational, accomplished human beings have been applying for them?

  8. Console says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Really? Richmond is easily my favorite city in Virginia.

  9. Kylopod says:

    For a president’s party to gain seats during a midterm is rare enough–but for it to happen during the president’s second term is almost unheard of. It happened in 1998, but that was the first time it happened since 1822! It just goes to show how politically suicidal the impeachment of Clinton was for Republicans.

    I think there’s an outside chance the House will impeach Obama, even if there’s absolutely no basis for it, and zero chance of a conviction due to Democratic control of the Senate. But I suspect the House leadership isn’t quite that stupid.

    In any case, even in ’98 the Dems didn’t gain more than a few seats, nothing close to the 15+ that would be needed now for Dems to take control of the chamber.

    Ironically, the best chance Dems had for a good year in 2014 was if Romney had won the presidency. I’ll take the current trade off any day.

  10. michael reynolds says:


    Really? Richmond is easily my favorite city in Virginia.

    That may be what’s called ‘damning with faint praise.’ It’s too small, too provincial, too humid and too cloudy for me. But in fairness I bitch about most places I live. Richmond treated me well, it’s just not to my taste. When I think of it I see dark clouds so low you can touch them over red brick colonials. I hate colonial architecture.

    My single best memory is of Ukrops. I don’t know if they’re still around or still great, but that was a damned good grocery chain.

  11. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    f they behave badly, and yet retain a following, that will be kinda sad.

    Count on being sad,We elected a gaggle of morons in 2010, and then gerrymandering locked them in. I think they are still morons. After all, do you think that Allen West learned anything from his defeat? I think there are a ton of Wests left in Congress still.
    My hope is that we make gains in 2014, and regain the House in 2016, and that’s the BEST case scenario. We cant expect sensible legislation out of Congress for a long, long time.

  12. stonetools says:

    How come liberals aren’t damning Silver, calling for” unskewed” predictions and insisting that liberal “energy” can lead to victory in the 2014 elections?