After analyzing the electoral strength of both political parties on the national and state level, Sean Trende and David Byler of RealClearPolitics conclude that after 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the Republican Party “is in the strongest position it has been in since 1928.”
In 2014, we put together an index to measure the electoral strength of the parties. Rather than focusing on the presidency, we broke partisan control into five categories: presidential, Senate, House, governorships, and state legislatures. We have updated our index using the mostly complete data for the 2016 elections and can conclude that the GOP is in the strongest position it has been since 1928. In many sub-categories, it is near an all-time high.
If we put everything together in our final index, the GOP has a Trende-Byler score of 36.0, the highest score for the GOP since 1928 (when it scored a staggering 51.8) … Note that the 2006 and 2008 elections now look decidedly like aberrations. It is hard to square this with an overall view of an ascendant Democratic Party, though there is still a lot of history to be written.
With this, we can make some preliminary assessments of the Obama presidency. Obviously, this was not a successful period for party building. But how bad was it in a comparative sense? The index swung 70 points against Democrats from 2008 to 2016. Among two-term presidents, only Dwight Eisenhower (78.2), Franklin Roosevelt (98), Ulysses Grant (118.1) and Woodrow Wilson (137.2) presided over larger swings against their party. If we look only at FDR’s first two terms, he drops out, having lost only 40 index points. Given that President Obama oversaw reasonably robust growth throughout his term, unlike Eisenhower, Grant and Wilson, this is a jarring outcome.