1976 or 1980?

Can we decouple the presidential and Congressional races?  Let’s pretend Obama wins; maybe one way we can frame the question is whether 2008 would be like 1976 or 1980.  Aside from the much-used dueling Carter/Reagan narratives (i.e., would Obama be a failed one-termer or at the forefront of a governmental transformation?), this question also reflects on the down-ticket races.  Despite Carter’s victory in 1976, Democrats in the House only netted 1 seat and none in the Senate.  (Of course, that was after the Republican bloodbath of 1974, so the Democrats already had commanding majorities in both houses.)  Reagan’s election in 1980, on the other hand, helped the Republicans gain 34 seats in the House and 12 seats in the Senate.  So a candidate’s victory on the presidential level need not translate into gains for his party in Congress.  If 2008 is closer to 1976, Congressional Republicans could have a number to be more than a rump.

Historical analogies are limited things, though, and this one might not even be right.  McCain isn’t finished as a candidate yet….


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