Tyler Gurden - Gallup presents some troubling statistics for the democrats as we approach mid-term elections (a mere three months away). In a nutshell, the party of a president who has a sub-50% rating into midterms, has lost, on average, 36 seats since 1946. Alternatively, presidents with a popularity rating over 50%, lose just 14. As Gallup says: “The clear implication is that the Democrats are vulnerable to losing a significant number of House seats this fall with Barack Obama’s approval rating averaging 45% during the last two full weeks of Gallup Daily tracking. The Republicans would need to gain 40 House seats to retake majority control.”
Of course, the administration (and its dwindling members) is well-aware of this fact, which is why the next three months will likely see a record amount of pandering, populism and outright manipulation of everything that can be manipulated: that includes mortgages rates, and of course, stocks. Which leads us to observe the calendar of FOMC meetings until November: there are two - tomorrow and September 21. However, for a Fed loosening decision to have a material impact, the September meeting is likely cutting it too close to the election date, as the market will likely not have enough time to digest a favorable outcome, or in turn will be into its reactionary phase by the time November rolls around. Furthermore, the traditionally busy post-Labor day docket will likely mean events on the economic front already have to be in motion by then. Lastly, the fact that the Fed will have just a bare minimum quorum of just four directors through September 10 (at a minimum), means that any decision in the 11 days between then and the 21st will likely be far more problematic than one which has to be taken tomorrow. Which is why from a purely political calendar point of view, tomorrow’s Fed meeting is likely seen by the administration as a make or break. The tenuous 40 seat lead which will likely disappear should the current economic trajectory not change, is certainly on the radar for both Obama, and the very independent Federal Reserve.
More observations from Gallup:
On a historical basis, the Democrats under Jimmy Carter suffered the slimmest seat loss of a party whose president was below 50% approval, losing 11 seats in the 1978 midterms. More recently, Bill Clinton in 1994 and George W. Bush in 2006 saw their parties lose enough seats in the House to turn party control over to the opposition party when they had less than majority approval.
The president’s party nearly always loses seats in midterm elections, regardless of how well the president is rated by the public. Since World War II, only Clinton in 1998 and Bush in 2002 saw their parties gain seats in a midterm. Both men had approval ratings above 60% at the time of those elections. However, the parties of the other three presidents with ratings above 60% (Eisenhower in 1954, Kennedy in 1962, and Reagan in 1986) lost seats.
In general, though, the more popular a president is, the fewer seats his party loses, as presidents with approval ratings above 60% have averaged just a three-seat loss.