Some Observations on One Aspect of the 2014 Elections

November 6, 2014

Everyone is talking about the new Republican majority in the Senate. This is significant. It gives the Republican Party complete control of Congress. It will also make it very difficult for President Obama to have his judicial nominees approved by the Senate. But perhaps more significant in the long term are the Republican gains in the House of Representatives.

Some House races remain undecided, so the extent of Republican gains in the House are still unknown, but it appears that at a minimum the GOP will pick up 12 seats, and they may pick up as many as 15 seats. So in the new Congress, the number of Republican seats in the House will probably be between 245 and 248. (If the number exceeds 246, it will be the largest number of Republican seats in the House of Representatives since the Hoover administration.)

Why is this significant? The size of the Republican majority in the House makes it very likely that no matter who is elected president in 2016, the Republicans will still control the House of Representatives following that election. So if Hillary Clinton or some other Democrat is elected president in 2016, their relations with the House during their first two years may be similar to what Obama has faced, namely adamant opposition from the House majority, resulting in legislative gridlock.

Sure, it is possible that it will be a legislative landslide in 2016 and the Democrats can regain control of the House, but such a sweeping result has been made more difficult by the increasing use of gerrymandering as a way of creating safe districts for incumbents. Political analysts from both parties agree that at most about 1/10 of the House seats are competitive in any given election. Given the expansion of the Republican majority in the House, it would probably take two, if not three, election cycles for the Democrats to regain control.

CFI is a nonpartisan nonprofit; these observations should not be interpreted as expressing support for any political party or candidate.