A quick perusal of the electoral maps in each race shows a closely divided nation and no real mandate for the victorious candidate.
But that landslide drought could end this November. Economic conditions produce landslides -- prosperity propelled Reagan and Eisenhower, for example, to huge re-election wins in 1984 and 1956. Economic distress affects voters even more. Only once has a president persuaded Americans to re-elect him in grim economic times: FDR in his 1936 landslide re-election.
But FDR's re-election in 1936 was preceded by a highly unusual 1934 midterm victory by Democrats. Normally, presidents' parties lose seats in midterm elections, but in 1934, Democrats absolutely swamped Republicans, picking up 97 House seats and 12 Senate seats. Americans were sold on the New Deal, even if the nation was still in the doldrums.
Contrast that smashing victory for Democrats in FDR's first midterm with what happened to Democrats in Obama's first midterm. Republicans gained 64 seats in the House of Representatives and 6 seats in the Senate, as well as winning gubernatorial and state legislative races all over the nation. The message to Obama was clear, even if he was not listening. While Americans might have liked Obama personally, they clearly rejected the policies he was pursuing.
How bad was this midterm defeat? Democrats fared worse in Obama's 2010 midterm election than Republicans did in Herbert Hoover's 1930 midterm. The 1930, 1932, and 1934 elections are generally viewed as transformative elections, when America moved from a free-enterprise, business-friendly Republican nation into a New-Deal welfare-state Democrat nation. Democrats would hold the White House for twenty straight years after the 1932 election and hold Congress for all but two of those years.
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