Is politics a zero-sum game?
Imagine, for a moment, if Sen. John McCain (R) had somehow won the presidency in 2008. How might the country be different?
We would not have the Affordable Care Act. Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan would not be on the Supreme Court. And the stimulus passed at the outset of McCain’s presidency would probably have been considerably different from the one passed under President Obama.
Oh, and there’s this: Democrats would probably still control the House, and they’d certainly still control the Senate.
That’s because the president’s party almost invariably pays a price for holding the White House, a price that can be measured in the loss of House representatives, senators, governors and state legislators.
Take a look at Chart 1, which examines the electoral history of the 12 presidents who served after World War II. Generally speaking, presidents left office with their parties having smaller House and Senate caucuses than when they arrived, and also fewer governors and state legislative chambers — often dramatically fewer.
All in all, these 12 postwar presidents lost an average of 30 U.S. House seats; six senators; eight governors; total control of six state legislatures; and about 360 state legislative seats over their tenures.
That includes Obama’s [thus far from 2010] losses, even though his final tally remains to be totaled [pending outcomes from 2014 and 2016].