biden takes victory lap after avoiding the traditional first term shellacking

President Joe Biden speaks during a rally ahead of the midterm elections in Philadelphia on Nov. 5.
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden took a victory lap Wednesday after pulling off the best midterm election results in two decades.

“It was a good day, I think, for democracy. And it was a good day for America,” Biden said in remarks at a news conference in the State Dining Room.

Democrats will almost certainly lose the House, but in numbers nowhere close to the two or three dozen that had been projected as late as Monday. And the party could well hold the Senate if two of the three incumbent Democrats in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia wind up on top.

Biden’s outcome, nevertheless, is the best for any sitting president since Republican George W. Bush, who, in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, picked up eight seats in the House and two in the Senate in the 2002 midterms.

Bush then lost 32 seats in the House and six in the Senate in his second-term midterms in 2006. Democrat Barack Obama lost 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate in 2010, and afterwards noted: “I’m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like … I did last night. I’m sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.”

In his second midterm in 2014, Obama lost 13 House seats and nine Democratic senators.

Trump, in his only midterm election in 2018, lost 41 House seats and picked up two Senate seats. However, Republicans had expected to pick up as many as six in what had been the most favorable map for them in a generation.

Biden’s approval rating had risen somewhat in recent months, but was still seen by many Democratic candidates as too low to be helpful for them. He did wind up campaigning, but, with the exception of Pennsylvania, where he was born, did not visit states with highly competitive Senate races.

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