No Mr. President, There Isn’t Going To Be A “Red Wave” In November

President Trump claims that November will see a "red wave" rather than the "blue wave" that most analysts are expecting. There's no evidence to support his hypothesis.

While the poll numbers, including both the Generic Congressional Ballot and the President’s Job Approval numbers, and political analysts continue to point toward an emerging Democratic wave that results in Republicans losing control of one of the chambers of Congress, Donald Trump and many of his more obsequious supporters are talking about a so-called “Red Wave” that would result in Republican gains in one or both chambers. For his part, Trump has made this claim in his recent political speeches and, of course, on Twitter:

This claim of a supposed “Red Wave” runs counter to all of the available evidence. As measured by both the President’s Job Approval numbers and the Generic Congressional Ballot, we’re at a point right now where Republicans need to accept the reality that they are most likely going to lose control of the House of Representatives in November, and that the Senate is at the very least in play in a way that it did not appear it would be earlier in the year. Absent some massive change, Republicans are not going to gain seats in the House, and the best they can hope for in the Senate is that, at the end of the day, they break even and hold on to their slim 51-49 seat majority. The idea that the GOP is going to be a huge increase in Republican support in either chamber is quite simply a fantasy. Were it coming from any other President, I’d say that these predictions of a “Red Wave” are simply an effort to keep enthusiasm as high as possible among the Republican base so as to limit the losses the GOP is likely to suffer. In Trump’s case, it appears to be something he actually believes, which leads one to wonder how he’ll react when he wakes up on November 7th and finds that the political landscape underneath him has changed completely.

Generally speaking, it has historically been the case that the President’s party loses seats in Congress in the first midterm election of the President’s term. The only exception to this rule came in 2002 when Republicans gained seats in the House and Senate, but these gains hardly amounted to a wave election and came just 14 months after the September 11th attacks at a time when President Bush was riding high in the polls. That’s most certainly not happening this time and, as CNN’s Chris Cillizza notes there’s basically no historical or contemporary support for the idea of the “Red Wave” the President is talking about:

Let’s go through a few of the historical hurdles Trump has to bypass to make the “Red Wave” a thing:

  • Since the Civil War(!) the party that controls the White House has lost House seats in 35 out of 38 midterm elections.
  • The three elections in which the president’s party won seats in a midterm were 1934 (Great Depression), 1998 (Bill Clinton impeachment) and 2002 (aftermath of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks). Those were all massive societal and cultural happenings.
  • Since 1946, the average seat loss for a president’s party when that president’s job approval rating is under 50% is 36 seats. In the latest CNN-SSRS poll, Trump’s job approval is at 36%. That’s similar to George W. Bush’s 38% approval in 2006 when his party lost 30 House seats — and control of the chamber.
  • Since direct election of senators (in 1913), there have been 26 midterm elections. The president’s party has lost Senate seats in 19 of them, per Charlie Cook.

That’s a whole lot of history. And it all points in the same direction — toward major seat losses in the House and a less certain outcome in the Senate where the national map (and raw numbers) are heavily tilted in Republicans’ favor this year. (There are 26 Democratic Senate seats up in November as compared to just 9 Republican seats; in 10 of those 26 Democratic seats, Trump carried the state in 2016.)

On the Trump side of the equation, there’s a lot less history. Let’s take a look at what happened in those three anomalous years — 1934, 1998 and 2002 — in which the president’s party picked up House seats.
  • 1934: Democrats gain 9 seats
  • 1998: Democrats gain 4 seats
  • 2002: Republicans gain 8 seats
None of those would fit anyone’s definition of a wave election. Single-digit gains in a body of 435 seats is marginal — at best. And remember that those single digit gains for the president’s party came in election cycles defined by cataclysmic events.
For Trump’s “red wave” to materialize, history suggests he needs an election-altering event — like in 1934, 1998 and 2002. Short of that, history is very, very likely to repeat itself. And that means Republicans’ House majority is in deep trouble.
We’ve already discussed what the election-altering event in 2002 was. In 1934, it was obviously the ongoing Great Depression and the popularity of President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. In 1998, it was the scandal that was enveloping President Clinton at the time due to his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the impeachment efforts of the Republicans which backfired on them in a spectacular fashion. Another factor at play in 1998, of course, was the fact that the economy at the time was very strong and that the Federal Government had managed to actually (somewhat) balance the budget and reach deals on issues such as welfare reform that seemed like they were impossible before they actually happened. In any case, there’s next to no evidence of an election-altering event that might occur between now and November 6th that would significantly benefit Republicans. Indeed, if there is any election-altering event that is at play in the 2018 midterms, it is Donald Trump himself and his historic unpopularity. As long as that’s the case, this idea that there is going to be a “Red Wave” is a complete absurdity.


FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, 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. PJ says:

    Putin has promised him one.

  2. mattbernius says:


    It’s awesome to see you again and that you have the time to share your thoughts here and on the Hurricane Maria/Puerto Rico thread.. I noticed you somehow missed the “Federal Budget Deficit Set To End Fiscal Year Near $1 Trillion, And Continue Growing” post (it was just below these two). Given your strong support of Trump and his policies, I’m sure you are willing to defend his radical expansion of our budget deficit.

    Or do you agree with Donald when he wrote in 2012 that “@BarackObama’s massive deficit spending is unsustainable.” If so what changed in your mind?

    Here’s the link so that you can easily post over there:

  3. Jen says:

    When I see references to a “red wave,” I invariably think of it as being along the lines of The Rains of Castamere/Red Wedding. In that sense, perhaps he is correct. 🙂

  4. grumpy realist says:

    OT but here’s an update on what’s been going on in the U.K. about Brexit:

    1. Companies are starting to become VERY nervous. Expect a large number to bolt if no appreciable movement by November.

    2. Chequers is moribund. Everyone knows it except Theresa May and her acolytes. Even the No. 10 cat knows it.

    3. The Tory Party remain in paralysis. The Ultra-Brexiters have enough votes to put Theresa May’s ministership up for grabs but insufficient votes to kick her out. (And if the vote is brought and fails, they can’t bring another challenge for another year.) Hence the continued sniping.

    4. The U.K. accidentally crashing out of the EU is looking more and more likely. Expect financial storms ahead.

  5. MBunge says:

    Well, no matter what may happen…impeachment, defeat, imprisonment…at least Trump will always be able to pay his bills by renting out the space he owns in Doug Mataconis’ head.


  6. Kylopod says:

    Of course, this is all just Toddler Trump talking. You say black, he says white. It doesn’t matter that “red wave” makes no sense in the context of this election, or that the possibility of Republicans not only gaining seats in the House, but gaining enough (say, 20+) to constitute a “wave election,” is about as likely as the predictions he was making in 2016 that he’d win states like California and Illinois.

    If Dems fail to win the House this year–which is plausible–he’ll call it a “red wave,” even if Republicans lose a substantial number of seats. That’s because “red wave” is just a slogan. It isn’t a numerical claim, it has about the same level of meaning as “We’re gonna kick the Dems’ butts!”

    It’s also a badly mixed metaphor, but never mind.

  7. PJ says:

    Red wave? Ha ha ha.

    It’s more likely that there will be blood coming out of Trump’s eyes, blood coming out of his wherever.

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    Trump’s not in your head Bungles.
    But his tiny fingers are grabbing your crotch with all his might!

  9. grumpy realist says:

    OT: (Brexit) Lordy lordy me….

  10. JKB says:

    Trump has a long history of daring the impossible and having the impossible give in. But seriously, Trump is as Scott Adams’ says, a master persuader. And as far as anyone in the chatter class can know, you have to believe in what you are trying to inspire.

    In any case, where’s the downside for Trump. No Red Wave, he’s right back where the conventional wisdom puts things.

  11. Kathy says:

    In Trump’s case, it appears to be something he actually believes, which leads one to wonder how he’ll react when he wakes up on November 7th and finds that the political landscape underneath him has changed completely.

    We know how he’ll react. Exactly as he did during the 2016 campaign until the actual election. Expect the word “rigged” a lot.

    If the GOP loses the Senate, expect El Cheeto to order his new AG to investigate Lyin’ Ted Cruz.

  12. teve tory says:
  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Isn’t the correct thing to do at this point to all grease themselves up and lie in a pile chanting “WWMD” (What Would Maggie Do)?

    Of course, Maggie probably wouldn’t have painted herself into this corner in the first place, but…

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    But seriously, Trump is as Scott Adams’ says, a master persuader.

    Why? Because he has you conned? BFD.

  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    Trump will always be able to pay his bills by renting out the space he owns in Doug Mataconis’ head.

    You, on the other hand, just give yourself away to your dear leader. You slut.

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s stopped being funny. You just make people sad, like a skid row loon pushing a shopping cart full of garbage and ranting about the CIA talking to him through his fillings. I’ve never watched something like this before, the complete degradation of a man. I can’t even feel contempt for you. It’s just embarrassing for everyone. Pull yourself together. Get help.

  17. Lounsbury says:

    But of course, the polls are skewed, in a Brumaire sort of fashion.

  18. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MBunge: What about the space reserved in your mouth? MAGA!

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Dennison hit 5,000 lies…and still you are swallowing his spunk.
    What does it say that you are still swallowing?

  20. Scott F. says:


    Everybody here who thinks that Trump will even acknowledge that he claimed there would be a red wave and admit he was wrong, please raise your hand…


  21. Franklin says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Perhaps the saddest part is MBunge probably thought his tired comment was witty. But I guess when a couple loose neurons accidentally get close enough to spark, you gotta go with the resulting flame.

  22. Kylopod says:

    @One American:

    To quote the failed Mrs. First Female selected candidate, at this point what difference does it make? Donald Trump will still be your President.

    Please continue believing that. And tell it to every Republican you encounter too.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @One American:
    Oh, you learned a new word! Let’s see, ‘cuck,’ ‘snowflake,’ ‘butthurt,’ ‘get over it,’ and now ‘deflect.’ I’m guessing Tucker Carlson? He’s edumacated.

    Do you mind if I explain why you’re a moron? To deflect is in effect to attribute to someone else attributes or actions of your own. So, here are the beats:

    1) Trump, facing a blue wave says “No, it’ll be a red wave, it’ll be the bestest, yugest red wave ever!”
    2) Mataconis says, “Hah hah hah.” (Paraphrasing.)
    3) Bung says Trump is renting space in Mataconis’s head.

    Can you spot the ‘deflection’ in that sequence? ‘Cause I think it’s number 3. IOW it’s actually Bung deflecting from the obvious fact that Mataconis is the one renting space in Bung’s head. See, Bung doesn’t address the issue, does he? He just gets upset that Mataconis – a political blogger – is writing about Trump who, in addition to being a study in abnormal psychology, is what? A politician.

    4) I ridicule Bung for. . . deflecting.
    5) You accuse me of deflecting.

    So, you are accusing me of deflecting from a deflection. Which implies that I should have more directly addressed Bung’s deflection. How would one do that? Two ways. I could write:

    a) Bung is deflecting! Which would be boring.

    b) Or, I could say ‘Bung is deflecting’ by doing the more entertaining thing, heaping ridicule on Bung’s need to deflect. You know, by writing:

    It’s stopped being funny. You just make people sad, like a skid row loon pushing a shopping cart full of garbage and ranting about the CIA talking to him through his fillings. I’ve never watched something like this before, the complete degradation of a man. I can’t even feel contempt for you. It’s just embarrassing for everyone. Pull yourself together. Get help.

    Now, look what you’ve done with your shiny new word. You’ve forced me to mock Bung afresh.

  24. MarkedMan says:

    I’m gonna veer perilously close to claiming predictive ability here: I think that the idea that the Senate is in play comes from applying statistical analysis where it doesn’t belong. Their is a rare election that sees 26 Ds on the ballot and only 9 Rs. I think 9 is too small a number to try to apply the broad statistical tools that are showing the Senate up for grabs. I also don’t think those tools account for such a case. Bottom line is that there are 35 Senate elections and the Dems would need to win 28 in order to take the Senate. That is hard to fathom. Unfortunately I think it is more likely The Ds will lose 1-3 votes.

    I would be ecstatic to be wrong, and enthusiastic about eating humble pie.

  25. wr says:

    @MBunge: “Trump will always be able to pay his bills by renting out the space he owns in Doug Mataconis’ head.”

    And there it is… the last desperate howl of the troll who knows he has irredeemably lost.

    But here even more incoherent than usual. When Baby J@nos used to claim he had this privilege, at least you could make sense of it — he is a complete nobody whose only claim to existence is that he can annoy strangers on the internet, thus “occupying” any space in anyone’s brain can be seen as a (pathetic) victory.

    Trump holds the most powerful position in the world — anyone in the US Presidency is going to occupy some significant place in our minds because of the office’s power over our lives.

    But Young Master Bungles thinks that holding the presidency and using it to annoy strangers online is somehow a victory for Trump and for him.

    It’s a bizarre, pathological mindset, and for Bungles a sign that he has given up any pretense of thought, independent or otherwise.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MBunge: A thumbs up for humor if not fact.

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Trump is as Scott Adams’ says, a master persuader.

    You’re right. He has persuaded me that the GOP are the devil’s handmaidens, absolute pure evil, a bunch of cowardly sycophants who care nothing at all for their country or humanity in general, where as before I thought they were just wrong.

  28. Bruce Henry says:

    “Master persuader” my ass.

    His supporters were already persuaded that Mexicans were rapists, women were second class citizens, poor people were lazy, and all the other nonsense that comes with Trumpism, when Donald came along. If he hadn’t gathered up all the hateful, spiteful threads and named the resulting “ism” after himself, some other loathsome misogynist racist fck would have.

    Palin was the larval stage, the Tea Party was the pupal, Trumpism is the resulting cockroach infestation.

  29. grumpy realist says: