Last month, Newt Gingrich made a bold (and seemingly wild) prediction about the midterm elections.
“I think we’ll pick up between 25 and 70 seats in the House,” the former Republican House speaker said in an interview with Fox.
Seventy seats! That would not only eclipse the 63-seat gain Republicans made in the 2010 midterm elections, but would also be the largest seat switch in the House since 1948.
Gingrich, as he often does, was likely just riffing – going for an outlandishly high ceiling on Republican gains to draw headlines and attention.
Which, well, mission accomplished.
Gingrich’s ceiling of 70 seats is well in excess of where nonpartisan political handicappers are – at least at the moment. David Wasserman, the House editor at the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, is projecting Republicans gain between 20 and 35 seats. Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections hasn’t released his range just yet – it’s coming next week – but says, “Republicans are well positioned to win the majority.”
New data from Gallup suggests that the national political environment is arguably worse for Democrats than it was in 2010 – raising at least the possibility that the party suffers even larger losses than currently predicted.
“The party of the president typically loses U.S. House seats in midterm elections – an average of 23 since 1974. However, 2022 is not shaping up to be an average year. Rather, as of May, Gallup finds presidential job approval and three other key national mood indicators well below the historical averages measured in past midterm election years. On their own, those numbers would all predict a greater-than-average loss of seats for the Democratic Party this fall.”
A glance at the Gallup data – which looks at presidential approval, congressional approval, satisfaction with the direction of the country and overall judgment of economic conditions – reveals that the environment that was measured in May looks a lot like it did at the end of the 2010 cycle.
Biden approval: 41%
Congressional approval: 18%
US satisfaction: 16%
Economic conditions (net): -32
Obama approval: 45%
Congressional approval: 21%
US satisfaction: 22%
Economic conditions (net): -31
Pretty similar, right? If anything, the national political environment – as understood through these four factors – is worse for Democrats now than it was in 2010.
Now, before you sign on to Gingrich’s 70-seat prediction, it’s worth considering that:
a) The past two national redistricting processes (in 2011 and 2021) have, broadly speaking, created more safe districts that are virtually certain to elect a member of one party.
b) The 2020 election, in which Republicans netted 12 House seats, likely limits the ceiling of GOP gains since some of the lower-hanging fruit has already been, um, picked.
To be very clear here: A 70-seat Republican gain in the fall still feels more like a Gingrich fever dream than a fact-based possibility. But as Gallup concludes: “The current Democratic congressional majority is facing an extremely unfavorable election environment.”
The Point: Democrats are in as bad a shape as they have been at this point of a midterm election as they have been in many decades. And what’s worse for the party is that there’s no obvious event or series of events that could (or will) turn things around.