El Questiono

Wynott at aol.com Wynott at aol.com
Mon Nov 9 11:16:19 PST 1998

In a message dated 11/9/98 12:17:49 AM Pacific Standard Time, cicero13 at ufl.edu

<<     Can anybody tell me why the president's party always (historically
 speaking) loses seats at the polls in an off-year?  Why is this?>>

There are several reasons:

1. During the presidential election year, the winning President usually has
enough "coattails" to help some Congressional candidates from his party to win
in close races.  In other words, some set of voters decide that, if they're
going to vote for X for President and he's a Republican, they might as well
also vote for the Republican Congressional candidate.  Two years later,
though, the incumbents in those swing districts don't have the benefit of the
popular figure at the top of the ticket . . . and are therefore more likely to

Newt Gingrich accurately pointed out that this factor couldn't play out very
well for Republicans in '98 because the GOP won so many swing districts in '94
and didn't lose that many of them during the Presidential year of '96.  In
other words, from the GOP perspective, there weren't many more swing districts
to pick up in '98.  (That didn't stop Newt from making the stupid prediction
that the GOP could pick up 30 House seats, though.)

2. Many political observers believe that voters tend to be more motivated by
voting "against" something or someone than voting "for" something or someone.
Thus, the theory goes, in off-year elections where turnout is invariably lower
than in Presidential election years, voters supporting the out-of-power party
will be more motivated to turn out to vote, because they have something to be
"against".  (Even if that something they're against is "change" . . . as,
arguably, was the case this year.)

-- K.D. Weinert

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