Historically, the first midterm election following the election of a new president is a reflection of that president’s administration, even though they aren’t on the ballot.
And if past trends hold up on Tuesday, that spells serious trouble for President Trump and the Republican Party. CNN’s Ryan Struyk tweeted Monday that, when going all the way back to the 1950s, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, Trump has the lowest approval rating on record for presidents prior to their first midterm:
President Trump has the *worst pre-election approval rating in modern history* immediately before his first midterm election via new @CNN poll and Gallup trend:
W Bush 63%
HW Bush 58%
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) November 5, 2018
To put these numbers in perspective, Trump’s 39 percent approval rating is seven points lower than the 46 percent approval President Obama had in a 2010 CNN poll prior to the midterm election in which Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and numerous state legislatures and governorships across the country.
Gallup analyzed the polling numbers for presidents dating back to 1946 (when Harry Truman was in the White House) and found that, on average, the incumbent president’s party loses an average of 37 Congressional seats in their first midterm election if their approval rating is below 50 percent. The current record for the biggest net loss by a sitting president’s party in the midterms is 63, when the Tea Party wave of 2010 rocked Obama and the Democrats:
To be fair, President Trump’s 39 percent approval rating isn’t the lowest ever — Gallup’s data shows that Harry Truman had a 33 percent approval rating in the 1946 midterms, which led to a net loss of 55 seats for Democrats. And George W. Bush had a 38 percent approval rating in the 2006 midterms (dominated by anger over the administration’s handling of the Iraq War) when Republicans saw a net loss of 30 seats.
It remains to be seen whether or not Republicans will lose control of the House of Representatives after tomorrow’s election. But if Trump’s approval rating is any indicator, the net loss for the GOP may be even greater than it was for Democrats in 2010.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.