Unwanted feat for Dems: More votes, fewer seats

AP News
Posted: Mar 31, 2014 12:46 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic candidates for the U.S. House pulled off a dubious feat in the 2012 election: Collectively, they got more votes than their Republican opponents, but they didn't win the most seats.

It was only the second time since World War II that the party receiving the most votes failed to win a majority in the House. The other time was 1996, and the scenario was similar.

Two years before that, Republicans had won control of the House for the first time in 40 years. The 1994 election was historic for House Republicans. GOP candidates gained 54 House seats in what became known as the Republican Revolution. Republicans also won control of the Senate, giving them extraordinary power to shape Democratic President Bill Clinton's presidency.

Sound familiar?

In 1996, Clinton won re-election and the votes swung back to the Democrats. But for House Democrats, the votes didn't come in all the right places.

Nationally, Democratic House candidates outpolled Republicans by 273,000 votes, according to statistics compiled by the House Clerk. But the GOP still emerged from the 1996 election with a 19-seat majority. Republicans kept their House majority until the 2006 election.

Fast-forward to 2012, when President Barack Obama won a second term in office. Two years earlier, Republicans had reclaimed their House majority, gaining a whopping 63 seats to take a 49-seat majority.

Obama's victorious re-election campaign in 2012 helped swing some votes back to Democratic candidates. But for House Democrats, once again the votes didn't come in all the right places.

Nationwide, Democratic candidates for the House received 1.4 million more votes than their GOP opponents. Democrats, however, were able to gain only eight seats in the House, leaving Republicans with a 33-seat majority.

— Stephen Ohlemacher