With 49 days until the election people are wondering if there will be a wave election this year. First we need to agree about what constitutes a wave election. One clear measurement is that a percentage of gains in the US House, US Senate, and Governors should be 10% or more. If this standard is applied, then a wave in the US House is a gain of 44 or more seats, a wave in the US Senate is a gain of 10 or more seats, and a wave for Governors is a gain of 5 or more. While it might seem counter-intuitive, there have been more US House waves than US Senate waves or Governor waves between now and 1958. There have been 5 US House wave, 3 Governor waves, and only one US Senate wave.
The biggest US House wave occurred in 2010 when the Republicans gained 63 seats. The next biggest US House wave occurred in 1994 when the Republicans gained 54 seats. Each of these waves also resulted in the US House flipping from a Democrat to a Republican majority. The next biggest US House wave occurred in 1974 when the Democrats gained 49 seats and this gave the Democrats a two-thirds majority in the US House. A US House wave occurred in 1966 when Republicans gained 47 seats, but the Democrats still held a majority 248-187. A US House wave occurred in 1958 when the Democrats gained 48 seats.
The biggest Governor wave occurred in 1994 when the Republicans gained 10. The next biggest Governor wave occurred in 2006 when the Democrats gained 6. The most recent Governor wave occurred in 2010 when the Republicans gained 5.
There is only one US Senate wave, and this was the largest US Senate gain ever. It occurred in 1958, and it also involves special elections for the new states of Alaska and Hawaii that took place before the next general election in 1960. The Democrats gained 13 seats (10 of them by defeating Republican incumbents), and also won both Senate seats in the new state of Alaska. Senate elections in 1959 in the new state of Hawaii were split between the two parties; combined with the 1958 results, this yielded an aggregate gain of 16 seats for the Democrats for a party balance of 65-35. Before this outcome the Democrats held a slim majority in the US Senate of 49-47.
In 1958 the US House was comprised of 234 Democrats and 201 Republicans. After the election and the special elections in Alaska, the Democrat majority grew to 283 and the Republican minority shrunk to 153.
While the numeric composition in 2014 is similar with 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats, the politicians and the voters in 1958 bear no resemblance to present day politicians and voters. Conservatives would rejoice mightily if they could achieve the same victories that the Democrats had in 1958, but there has been no effort by the RNC to nationalize this election. Instead the strategy has been to avoid any controversy by putting off doing anything. There are also not enough seats in congressional districts that have about the same number of Republicans and Democrats for a 48 seat gain. There are enough US Senate seats in play to come close but not quite reach a 10 seat gain for Republicans. The best places to look for a wave in 2014 are the gubernatorial elections. Currently Real Clear Politics projects a Democrat gain of one, but there are so many that have not yet secured a safe race. The Democrats are considered to have a safe contest in only three states, California, Maryland, and New York. The Republicans have a safe contest in six states, Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming. The Republicans are trailing badly in only one state out of the 22 they hold that are up for election, Pennsylvania.
The bottom line is take nothing for granted. This election is too important to just stay home. Go vote, and bring some like-minded voters to the polling station with you to vote.
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