Since 1865, only on three occasions has the presi-dent’s party gained seats during a president’s first midterm. Thus, with a major-ity of only four seats, it makes sense that Biden and the Democrats are going into these elections with a little bit of trepidation. In fact, the trend has been getting progressively worse for Democrats in recent dec-ades; in 1994 Bill Clinton lost 52 seats and in 2010 Obama lost 63. The trend also appears to be worse for the Democrats compared to their Republican counter-parts. Even the quite divisive Donald Trump only lost 40 in 2018 (sorry we were enjoy-ing having not mentioned him for a few issues!). In fact, if I were a Democratic House of Representatives member, I’d be putting out feelers for my autobiography deal rather than trying to fight the tide next midterm.
Things look a bit brighter for the Democrats in terms of the currently split senate, however. As the senate elects a third of its members every two years, senators are essentially on a 6 year rotation. 6 years before the upcoming midterm, was the 2016 election, when Presi-dent Obama was losing fa-vour. Therefore, out of the 34 seats up for grabs, only 14 of them are currently Democrat. Seeing as the senate has a current stand-ing of 50:50, forecasts pre-dict that Biden’s administra-tion and the wider demo-crats would have to score below 40% in the polls to lose their majority in the
senate. Glancing at the above, one could easily as-sume that the losing of the house and the winning of the senate is all but en-sured.
Currently Joe Biden’s ap-proval rating only dipped below 50% back in June. Despite being elected into a world pandemic, it wasn’t until the shambolic with-drawal from Afghanistan - Biden’s first true foreign policy test— and it’s failures that his support waned be-low 50%. Whether this proves to be a temporary setback or the beginnings of a continued loss of political capital, remains to be seen.
Ultimately the party not in power—the Republicans — will be trying to paint the midterms as a poll on Biden. Whether rightly or wrongly, they will argue that the only way to put a check and bal-ance on Biden will be to block him in the house. In the same vane, Democrats will point to the razor thin majorities in each House and argue that more votes will lead to more progress in the legislative process.
In fact, despite being over a year out from any midterm, this positioning has weakened over the last week. At present, the Democrats are currently trying to pass the ‘Build Back Better’ Act, a $3.5 trillion dol-lar infrastructure project. Es-sentially, the more progressive representatives within the party are withholding support for a bipartisan infrastructure package until moderates strike a deal with them on the Build Back Better Act. With a split Senate and a slim hold on the House, Democratic infighting means leveraging their power to make sure their colleagues support their bills, comprimis-ing Biden's mainstream do-mestic agenda.
Unfortunately one (Biden) only has to look at the Democratic party in 2010 to learn the im-portance of the first two years in power. Obama’s landmark bill, Obamacare, was watered down due to the death of Ted Kennedy and the loss of the supermajority in the Senate. If Biden isn’t careful, his present day difficulties not being able to unify the party will seem easy compared to achieving his agenda with Republicans and Kevin McCarthy at the wheel.