2010, 1994, 1982: Some Historical Perspective
That's Silver's judgment. No big surprise. This feels increasingly like a wave election, buoyed by economic and cultural discontent and bewilderment. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a GOP take-over of House and Senate.
But the following strikes me as an important piece of perspective. It's highly predictable in that, barring some big external factor (like a war in 2002), a president loses big in his first midterm. 1994 saw a massive backlash against a president we now regard as a quintessential centrist, embraced by many in the GOP - a gain of 54 seats by the GOP. But they were starting from a relatively low base. The party gap wasn't that large in the general polling. In 1994, the GOP won 48 percent of the popular vote, to 44 percent for the Dems.
More interestingly, because the economic parallels are closer, 1982 saw a Democratic gain of 27 seats in the wake of Reagan's first two years. Not as impressive, but that's also largely because they began with a very large base.
The Democrats went into the 1982 midterms with a majority of 50 seats and ended it with a majority of 103! The Democrats won 54 percent of the vote to 43 percent for the GOP, an 11 percent lead. That compares with a 52 - 47 spread right now for the GOP in Obama's first term, a 5 point lead. By the end of 1982, Reagan had a Gallup rating of 40 percent. Obama currently has a Gallup rating of 41 percent, and a 45 percent rating in the poll of polls.
In 1982, unemployment was at 10.8 percent. Today, it is 9.6 percent. Just some data for an amnesiac political class.