IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Will 2018 be the fourth-straight "change" midterm election?

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
A poll worker hands out stickers to voters at a polling station on April 26, 2016 in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
A poll worker hands out stickers to voters at a polling station on April 26, 2016 in Hanover, Pennsylvania.Shane Dunlap / the Evening Sun via AP

WASHINGTON — Twenty years ago, in 1998, Democrats who were in control of the White House actually gained House seats — contrary to the historical pattern of a president’s party losing seats in a midterm election. Four years later, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was another “status-quo” midterm election, with George W. Bush’s Republican Party picking up 8 House seats and 1 Senate seat.

But since then — after the Iraq war, then the aftermath of the Great Recession — we’ve seen three straight “change” midterm elections, with the incumbent president’s party losing at least one chamber of Congress.

And with Democrats the odds-on favorite to at least win back the House of Representatives in November — though it’s far from a sure thing — it raises the question: Will 2018 be the FOURTH-straight change midterm election?

Losses/Gains By the President’s Party in Midterm Elections Since 1998:

  • 1998 (Dems controlled the White House): +5 House seats, unchanged in the Senate

  • 2002 (GOP controlled the White House): +8 House seats, +1 Senate seats

  • 2006 (GOP controlled the White House): -30 House seats, -6 Senate seats

  • 2010 (Dems controlled the White House): -63 House seats, -6 Senate seats

  • 2014 (Dems controlled the White House): -13 House seats, -9 Senate seats

  • 2018 (GOP controlled the White House): ?????

SOURCE: Vital Statistics on Congress

Middle East violence mars opening of U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

“Israeli soldiers on Monday killed 18 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence and wounded 918 in the bloodiest day of protests since they began six weeks ago, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Thousands of Palestinians gathered on the edges of Gaza as the U.S. embassy opened in Jerusalem, fanning out along the fence in what appeared to be some of the largest demonstrations yet,” the Washington Post writes. (At publication time, the Gaza Health Ministry updated its numbers to say that 25 Palestinians have been killed today in Gaza.)

“At a gathering point east of Gaza City, organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them. At the barrier, young men threw stones and tried to launch kites carrying flames in hopes of burning crops on the other side. ‘People have come out of the rubble to say we will not forget our rights,’ said Yousef Abu Saleh, 25. ‘The American administration is adopting the Israeli story and stealing our right of return.’”

Romney blasts American pastor who will give blessing at embassy opening

“Former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney lashed out at the decision to have a controversial evangelical leader give a blessing at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Monday, calling him a ‘religious bigot,’” per NBC News. “The Senate candidate from Utah criticized the inclusion of the Rev. Robert Jeffress — the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas who is also an adviser to President Donald Trump. The president recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital last year.”

“‘Robert Jeffress says, “You can’t be saved by being a Jew,” and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell,”’ Romney wrote in a tweet. ‘He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.’ Romney is Mormon.”

More: “Jeffress denied he was a bigot, but added that he believed Mormonism was ‘wrong,’ and said the Southern Baptist Convention had designated it a ‘cult.’ ‘Mormonism has never been considered a part of historic Christianity. People may disagree with that view, but it’s not a view unique to me,” he said in an interview with NBC News.”

Make China Great Again?

The Associated Press: “President Donald Trump said Sunday he has instructed his Commerce Department to help get a Chinese telecommunications company ‘back into business’ after the U.S. government cut off access to its American suppliers. At issue is that department's move last month to block the ZTE Corp., a major supplier of telecoms networks and smartphones based in southern China, from importing American components for seven years. The U.S. accused ZTE of misleading American regulators after it settled charges of violating sanctions against North Korea and Iran.”

Here was Trump’s tweet on the matter yesterday: “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters tried to clarify Trump’s tweet, per the Washington Post: “The President’s tweet underscores the importance of a free, fair, balanced, and mutually beneficial economic, trade and investment relationship between the United States and China. The administration is in contact with China on this issue, among others in the bilateral relationship. President Trump expects [Commerce] Secretary [Wilbur] Ross to exercise his independent judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts,” she said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., responded this way: “Problem with ZTE isn’t jobs & trade, it’s national security & espionage. Any telecomm firm in #China can be forced to act as tool of Chinese espionage without any court order or any other review process. We are crazy to allow them to operate in U.S. without tighter restrictions.”

GOP senator demands apology from the White House

NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports that Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, took to Twitter last night to demand an apology from White House aide Kelly Sadler for her reported remarks about Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“@SenJohnMcCain is a great American, a close friend & mentor of mine in the Senate. Like millions of Americans, my family & I continue to pray for this American hero as he bravely battles cancer, & is again showing the courage and fighting spirit for which he is widely regarded,” he tweeted, adding: “As to the White House official who offered such an insult, she should show some respect and apologize.”

Will bolder policy ideas help or hurt Democrats in 2020?

Finally, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin takes a look at some of the progressive ideas taking hold in the Democratic Party ahead of 2020 – universal access to Medicare, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed basic income, marijuana legalization.

“Some Democrats say Trump has changed the rules by making implausible, unworkable — but eye-catchingly ambitious — promises to voters, and that they need bolder ideas to steal the spotlight back. It doesn’t hurt that few on either side of the aisle seem to care about the deficit anymore.”

“But there’s risk too: The RNC is talking up an “alarming liberal radicalism” in press releases and sees an upside in defining Democrats as beholden to the far left. Raising voter expectations too high could also lead to disillusionment if those making the promises can’t deliver once in power.”