Jim Beam column:GOP expecting midterm win

Published 7:42 am Thursday, July 28, 2022

Republicans are convinced they will take control of both houses of Congress after the Nov. 8 midterm elections. What does election history say about those prospects?

The election of  President George H.W. Bush in 1988 gives us some insight into the GOP’s confidence. The Bush-Dan Quayle ticket won the election with 426 Electoral College votes.

Bush began his presidency with the Democrats controlling both the House and Senate in 1988 and after the 1990 midterms, so that was a major disadvantage in getting his programs enacted.

A news report from the Miller Center at the University of Virginia said when the Persian Gulf War ended in March 1991, Bush had approval ratings approaching 90 percent. However, the economy is always a major issue in presidential elections and it wasn’t good at the time.

The Miller Center said, “The U.S. economy had slowed down, and middle-class Americans had grown increasingly upset about the president’s inaction on the economic recession …”

Republican conservatives had also never forgiven the president for breaking his 1988 campaign promise not to raise taxes.”

After the 1994 midterm election, however, Republicans had control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Clinton was re-elected in 1996 with 379 votes to 159 for Republican Bob Dole. Republicans retained their congressional majorities after the election. After the 1998 midterm election, Republicans also retained control of both houses of Congress.

Republican George W. Bush won the controversial 2000 presidential  election that was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court with a  5-4 ruling said that no constitutionally valid recount could be completed by a Dec. 12 “safe harbor” deadline. So three weeks after Election Day, Florida’s 25 electoral votes were declared for Bush.

Bush won with 271 electoral votes to 266 for Democratic Vice President Al Gore. Republicans retained control of both houses of Congress, giving the party control of Congress and the presidency for the first time since the 1954 elections.

Republicans retained control of the Senate after the 2002 midterm election and added to their control of the House.

Bush was re-elected in 2004, defeating Democrat John Kerry. Bush finished with 50.7 percent of the vote and 286 electoral votes to 251 for Kerry. Republicans retained control of both houses of Congress.

In the 2006 midterm election, Democrats secured control of both houses, which was the first time and only time either party did so since the 1994 elections.

Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election, defeating Republican John McCain. Obama received 365 electoral votes to 173 for McCain. Democrats won a majority in both houses of Congress, giving them full control of Congress for the first time since the 103rd Congress in 1993, which was also the last time they controlled the House.

In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans won the House, but the Democrats kept their Senate majority.

Obama was re-elected in 2012, defeating Republican Mitt Romney. Obama won with 332 electoral votes to 206 for Romney. Democrats controlled the Senate with 53 seats, but Republicans controlled the House with 234 seats to 201 Democrats.

After the 2014 midterm election, Republicans took control of the Senate and their House majority became the largest GOP majority since the 71st Congress of 1929-31.

Republican Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election with 304 electoral votes to 227 for Hillary Clinton. The GOP also retained majority control of both the House and Senate. After the 2018 midterm election, Republicans had control of the Senate with 53 votes. However, Democrats won the House with 235 votes to 200 for Republicans.

President Joe Biden won the extremely controversial 2020 election with 306 electoral votes to 232 for Trump. Democrats now control the Senate with 48 seats and 2 held by Independents. Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris has the tie-breaking vote. Democrats also control the House with 222 seats to 213 for Republicans.

The political parties of most presidents don’t enjoy full control of Congress while they are in office, or at least not for long. And in Biden’s case, the Democrats’ control of both houses hasn’t helped him that much.

Inflation has become Biden’s major problem. The economy was also George H.W. Bush’s situation when he lost the 1992 election. So you can see why the GOP is extremely confident about its chances on Nov. 8.