Race for the House 2012
John Boehner represents Ohio's 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also holds the role of Speaker of the House. Members of the House must run for office every two years.
McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./Jill Braaten, photographer

Race for the House 2012

Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections. What look will the Congress that is elected in November 2012 take on?

The Republicans’ sweeping victory in 2010—a net gain of 64 seats over 2008—was  fueled by economic woes. Political analysts say that the three economic issues that mattered most to voters were:

  • Rising unemployment,
  • the mortgage crisis,
  • and concerns over the health care law.

A net gain of 64 seats is one of historic proportions. Here are the results of some significant House elections in which one party claimed a substantial victory.

Historic House Elections

Election Year Result What caused it
1932 Democrats gain 97 House seats
  • The Great Depression strikes hard
  • Voters blame incumbent Herbert Hoover, Republicans
  • Challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) promises action
1940 Republicans gain 72 House seats
  • FDR runs for unprecedented third term
  • WWII begins in Europe
  • Great Depression continues
1994 Republicans gain 54 House seats
  • Republicans unite on various reforms, promise to balance federal budget

Presidential v. Off-Year Elections

Presidential election years are years in which elections are held for the president, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and some members of the U.S. Senate.

Off-year election years are years in which elections are held for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and some members of the U.S. Senate, but not the president.

The chart shows the results for House elections. In 2012, voters are electing the members of the 113th United States Congress, composed of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The 113th Congress will serve a two-year term beginning in January 2013.

House of Representatives by Party

Congress(Years) Democrats Republicans Independents Presidential Election Year?
206 228 1 Yes
211 223 1 No
212 221 2 Yes
205 229 1 No
202 232 1 Yes
233 202 0 No
257 178 0 Yes
193 242 0 No
113th(2013-2014) ? ? ? Yes

Source: Office of the Clerk – U.S. Capitol, Party division totals are based on November election day results

View the complete chart online.

The first five elections on the chart show no big shift in party among the voters. But the last three elections had more unexpected results:

2006 During Republican George W. Bush’s second term in office, Democrats pick up 31 seats.
2008 Democrat Barack Obama wins presidency; Democrats pick up 24 seats
2010 During Obama’s first term, GOP picks up 64 seats

Trends to Track

What will happen in 2012? Here are some trends to track:

  • More voters vote in a presidential election year than in an off-year election.
  • Candidates for Congress are likely to have the advantage of a popular candidate for president at the top of its ticket. A landslide victory for a presidential candidate translates into more seats in Congress for the party.
  • No consistent trend emerges if the presidential election is close.
  • Parties that pick up a substantial number of seats in one election have a tougher time of it in the next election. That party is likely to lose at least some its gains—but it’s difficult to add more.

Go a Step Farther

Research information about one of the races for House of Representatives in your district or state. Analyze the political ads and slogans for the candidates. Identify the two most important issues of the campaign.

Lia Eastep


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