Coulter dismissed Democratic electoral gains as "pathetic" by historical standards
In her syndicated column, Ann Coulter claimed that the Democratic Party made "pathetic gains" in the November 7 midterm elections. In fact, the Democrats' gains in the House are just slightly under the average for the party out of power in the White House in the sixth-year midterm elections over the past century, and the Democrats' Senate gains are above the average. Moreover, the 2006 elections were the first sixth-year midterms since 1918 in which control of both houses of Congress switched parties.
In her November 8 nationally syndicated column , right-wing pundit Ann Coulter  claimed that the Democratic Party made "pathetic gains" in the November 7 midterm elections. As evidence, Coulter pointed to four past elections that were held during the sixth year of a presidency, in which the party controlling the White House lost 43 or more seats in the House of Representatives and as many as 13 Senate seats. She compared those totals to the Democrats' November 7 gains of six Senate seats and at least  28 House seats (with several House races undecided as of this posting). According to Coulter: "Only for half-brights with absolutely no concept of yesterday is this a 'tsunami' -- as MSNBC calls it -- rather than the death throes of a dying party."
In fact, the Democrats' November 7 gains in the House are -- at the moment -- just slightly under the average for the party out of power in the White House in the sixth-year midterm elections over the past century, and the Democrats' Senate gains are above the average. Moreover, the 2006 election was the first sixth-year midterm elections since 1918 in which control of both the House and Senate switched parties.
In fact, if the Democrats' pathetic gains in a sixth-year election are a statement about the war in Iraq, Americans must love the war! As Roll Call put it back when Clinton was president: "Simply put, the party controlling the White House nearly always loses House seats in midterm elections" -- especially in the sixth year.
In Franklin D. Roosevelt's sixth year in 1938, Democrats lost 71 seats in the House and six in the Senate.
In Dwight Eisenhower's sixth year in 1958, Republicans lost 47 House seats, 13 in the Senate.
In John F. Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson's sixth year , Democrats lost 47 seats in the House and three in the Senate.
In Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford's sixth year in office in 1974, Republicans lost 43 House seats and three Senate seats.
Even America's greatest president, Ronald Reagan, lost five House seats and eight Senate seats in his sixth year in office .
But in the middle of what the media tell us is a massively unpopular war, the Democrats picked up about 30 House seats and five to six Senate seats in a sixth-year election, with lots of seats still too close to call. Only for half-brights with absolutely no concept of yesterday is this a "tsunami" -- as MSNBC calls it -- rather than the death throes of a dying party.
Including the elections Coulter referred to, and using Coulter's standard of including vice presidents who have assumed the presidency after a president died in office or prematurely exited from office, there have been 10 congressional elections held during the sixth year of a presidency since 1900. The five others were in 1906 (Theodore Roosevelt, Republican); 1918 (Woodrow Wilson, Democrat); 1926 (Warren G. Harding/Calvin Coolidge, Republican) 1950 (Franklin D. Roosevelt/Harry Truman, Democrat); and 1998 (Bill Clinton, Democrat).
According to data * from the website of the Office of the Clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives, the average gain for the party out of power in the White House in these elections is roughly 32 House seats:
- 1906: Democrats gained 32 seats
- 1918: Republicans gained 25 seats
- 1926: Democrats gained 11 seats
- 1938: Republicans gained 81 seats
- 1950: Republicans gained 28 seats
- 1958: Democrats gained 49 seats
- 1966: Republicans gained 47 seats
- 1974: Democrats gained 49 seats
- 1986: Democrats gained 5 seats
- 1998: Republicans lost 5 seats
According to data * from the Senate website, the average gain for the party out of power in the White House in these elections is between five and six Senate seats:
- 1906: Democrats lost 1 seat
- 1918: Republicans gained 7 seats
- 1926: Democrats gained 5 seats
- 1938: Republicans gained 7 seats
- 1950: Republicans gained 5 seats
- 1958: Democrats gained 16 seats
- 1966: Republicans gained 4 seats
- 1974: Democrats gained 4 seats
- 1986: Democrats gained 8 seats
- 1998: No change
As Media Matters for America documented , before the November 7 elections, Coulter falsely claimed that "[t]he average of the midterm election pickup since World War II is about 40 seats" in order to assert that the Democrats "ought to be picking up 60 or 70 seats" in the House or "they may as well go away as a party."
* The data are approximate because the House and Senate websites list data about party division only at the beginning of each Congress. The Senate website includes the following disclaimer: "Note: Statistics listed below reflect party division immediately following the election. The actual number of senators representing a particular party often changes during a congress, due to the death or resignation of a senator, or as a consequence of a member changing parties."