Tidal Waves in Recent American Elections
Will the 2006 elections produce another tidal wave? Check out results
of other tidal wave elections.
According to political scientist Thomas Mann, tidal waves elections
occurred "in the 1946, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1982 and 1994 midterm
elections, producing losses of 26 to 56 seats."
The U.S. House election, 1974 was an election for the United States
House of Representatives in 1974 which occurred in the wake of the
Watergate scandal which forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign in
favor of Gerald Ford. This scandal allowed the Democratic Party to
make large gains in the House election, taking 49 seats from the
Republican Party and increasing their majority above the two-thirds mark.
Notable freshmen included future Senator and presidential candidate
Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.).
Party Total Seats (change) Seat Percentage
Democratic Party 291 +49 66.8%
Independents 0 -1 0.0%
Republican Party 144 -48 33.1%
Totals 435 +0 100.0%
The U.S. Senate election, 1974 was an election for the United States
Senate held in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Richard M. Nixon's
resignation from the presidency, and Gerald Ford's subsequent pardon
of Nixon. These circumstances benefited the Democrats, and they made a
net gain of three seats from the Republicans. This became four after
the Senate voided the contested election in New Hampshire and Democrat
John A. Durkin (D-NH) won a special election.
Democrats won an open seat in Vermont and unseated incumbents Peter H.
Dominick (R-CO), Edward J. Gurney (R-FL), and Marlow Cook (R-KY).
Republicans took an open seat in Nevada.
A notable first term Senator was former astronaut John Glenn (D-OH),
who defeated sitting Senator Howard Metzenbaum in a primary and went
on to win the general election. Running as a candidate in this
election was Harry Reid, who was defeated by Paul Laxalt. Thirty years
later, Reid would become Minority Leader in the Senate.
The U.S. House election, 1982 was an election for the United States
House of Representatives in 1982 which occurred in the middle of
President Ronald Reagan's first term. As in most midterm elections,
the President's Republican Party lost a net of 27 seats to the
Democratic Party, including most of the seats that had been gained the
previous election, cementing the Democratic majority.
Possible contributing factors to the Democratic gains included high
unemployment caused by the 1981-1982 recession: in fact November 1982
is regarded as the "trough" of the business cycle which preceded the
1980s economic expansion.
Notable freshmen included future Senator and Presidential candidate
John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Party Total Seats (change) Seat percentage
Democratic Party 269 +27 61.8%
Independents 0 -1 0.0%
Republican Party 166 -26 38.1%
Totals 435 +0 100.0%
The U.S. Senate election, 1982 was an election for the United States
Senate following the Republican gains in 1980. Party balance was
unchanged following the election, with the Republican seat total
unchanged and the Democrats gaining one seat (one Democratic-leaning
Independent left the Senate).
Incumbents Howard Cannon (D-NV) and Harrison Schmitt (R-NM) lost seats
to the opposite party, and the open seat in Virginia that had been
held by Harry F. Byrd, Jr. (I-VA) was taken by a Republican while the
open seat in New Jersey was taken by a Democrat.
In 1983, Republicans picked up the seat of Henry M. Jackson (D-WA) in
a special election. This is not included in the numbers below.
The U.S. House election, 1994 was an election for the United States
House of Representatives in 1994 which occurred in the middle of
President Bill Clinton's first term. As a result of a 54-seat swing in
membership from Democrats to Republicans, the Republican Party gained
a majority of seats in the House for the first time since 1954.
The Democratic Party had run the House for forty years and had been
plagued by a series of scandals. The Republican Party, united behind
Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, which promised floor votes on
various popular and institutional reforms, was able to capitalize on
the perception that the House leadership was corrupt, as well as the
dissatisfaction of conservative voters with President Clinton's
actions (including a failed attempt at universal health care).
In a historic election, Democrat and House Speaker Tom Foley
(D-Washington) was defeated for re-election in his district, becoming
the first Speaker of the House to fail to win re-election since the
era of the American Civil War. Minority whip Newt Gingrich
(R-Georgia), re-elected in the Republican landslide, became Speaker
(previous Minority Leader Robert H. Michel having retired). Former
Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) became minority leader. The
new Republican leadership in the House and Senate fulfilled its
promise to bring a dozen legislative proposals to a vote in their
first 100 days.
Other major upsets included the defeat of powerful long-serving
Representatives such as Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski
(D-Illinois) and Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Texas). In all, 34
incumbents (all Democrats) were defeated, though several of them (like
David Price of North Carolina, Ted Strickland of Ohio, and Jay Inslee
of Washington) regained seats in later elections; Maria Cantwell of
Washington is notable for winning a U.S. Senate race in 2000.
Party Seats Seat percentage Popular Vote
1992 Elected Net Change
Democratic Party 258 204 -54 46.8% 44.7%
Independent 1 1 +0 0.2% 0.7%
Republican Party 176 230 +54 52.8% 51.5%
Totals 435 435 +0 100.0% 100.0%
The U.S. Senate election, 1994 was an election in which the Republican
Party was able to take control of the Senate from the Democrats by
mobilizing voters discontented with congressional incumbents and the
early presidency of Bill Clinton.
The Republicans captured eight seats from the Democrats, including the
seats of sitting Sens. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.) and James R. Sasser
(D-Tenn.), as well as six open seats in Arizona, Maine, Michigan,
Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Notably, since Sasser's defeat
coincided with the special election to replace Albert A. Gore Jr. (who
had left the Senate to become vice president), the delegation of
Tennessee changed from two Democrats to two Republicans in one election.
This defeat changed control of the Senate from Democrats to
Republicans for the first time since 1986. In combination with the
first change of control in the United States House of Representatives
since 1954 and the Republicans' net gain of twelve governor's seats,
this is sometimes called the Republican revolution. Minority leader
Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) became majority leader, while on the
Democratic side, the new minority leader was Thomas A. Daschle
(D-S.D.), previous majority leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) having
left the Senate.
Initially, the balance was 52-48 in favor of Republicans, but after
the power change, Democrats Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Ben
Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado switched parties, bringing the balance
to 54-46 before the resignation of Robert W. Packwood and his
replacement by a Democrat returned the balance to 53-47.