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Far too many people voted against the Democrats this time around because of Obama's low approval rating.
David Letterman recently summed up the absurdity of that position:
"Gas is below $3 a gallon, unemployment is below 6%, and the stock market is at record highs. No wonder voters hate the guy".
The 2014 election is a distortion of historical results due to the buckets of money spent on behalf of the "winning" candidates, but Presidential popularity historically has not had as much influence on mid term elections as you might think. The chart below explains why:
Presidential Approval and the Midterms
A look at the presidential approval rating in the September before the midterms and the election results.
President (Party) Year Approval/Disapproval Outcome in Midterm Election
Barack Obama (D) 2014 42%/53% TBD
Bill Clinton (D) 1998 63%/35% Democrats won 5 House seats, no change in Senate balance
Dwight Eisenhower (R) 1958 57%/29% Democrats won
49 House seats, 16 Senate seats
George W. Bush (R) 2006 39%/56% Democrats wo
n 31 House seats, 6 Senate seats
Harry Truman (D) 1950 35%/47% GOP won 28 House seats, 5 Senate seats
Lyndon Johnson (D) 1966 46%/39% GOP won 47 House seats, 3 Senate seats
Ronald Reagan (R) 1986 61%/25% Democrats won
5 House seats, 8 Senate seats
here's the rest of the story:
If popularity were the sole criteria for electoral success, then the Republican Party should have suffered massive losses in both the House and the Senate. The approval rating of Congress in September was 14%, which is an INCREASE from the 9% approval rating earlier this year . Both of those are the lowest ratings Congress has received since Gallup started the poll in 1974:
Disapproval rating of Congress is almost exclusively the fault of the "do nothing" Republican Parry, but they still picked up 12 seats in the House, and now control 56% of the House:
The Republicans also picked up 7 seats in the Senate, which now gives them majority control:
The governor's races also did not make any sense.
In April of 2013, Sam Brownback's approval rating was 36%
. He managed to destroy Kansas economically - and got re-elected by a 4 point margin
In the same survey, Rick Scott had an approval rating of 34%
, but prevailed in the mid-term election by 1 percentage point
Scott Walker came in at a 50% approval rating (God knows why)and won by 6% points
The only election that really made any sense was in Pennsylvania, where incumbent Tom Corbett had a 34%
approval rating. He lost on election day by nearly 10 percentage points.