Speaker Pelosi in 2014? I wouldn’t bet on it.

President Obama, talking about Nancy Pelosi and his predicted outcome of the 2014 midterm elections:

“… I expect that she’s going to be once again the Speaker of the House.”

Can Nancy Pelosi expect to be Speaker of the House come January 2015? It’s possible, but very unlikely.

In the modern political era (post-1940s), the president’s party almost always loses seats in the House during midterm elections, and this effect is almost always larger in a president’s second term than in the first (the two exceptions being the 1998 and 2002 midterm elections). From 1946-2006, the president’s party has lost an average of 16 House seats in a president’s first term midterm elections and 31 House seats in a president’s second term midterm election.

There are a couple of academic theories as to why this occurs. First, there are no presidential “coattails” to help co-partisan candidates of the winning president’s party during midterm elections. Second, another theory argues that the outcome of midterm elections is at least partially a “referendum” on the incumbent president’s performance, and a president almost always has lower approval ratings at the mid-point of their terms than when they began those terms. Finally, the “exposure” theory states that a president’s party will lose more seats in the midterm election because they simply have more to lose after gaining seats in the previous election thanks to the aforementioned “coattails” and “referendum” effects.

Also, it should be noted that even though Democrats technically won the popular vote for U.S. House in 2012 they gained only eight seats and failed to win a majority. One  estimation suggested that Congressional Democrats would have had to win the national popular vote by upwards of 7% to have taken back the House in 2012. This does not bode well for their chances in 2014.

In sum, it’s certainly a possibility that the Democrats will re-take the House in 2014, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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