NPR: Even If House Is Lost, Obama Finds Hope in History

President Harry S. Truman
President Harry S. Truman


Three times in the past century, a sitting president's party has lost its majority in at least one house of Congress. And all three times, the president went on to win re-election — Harry Truman in 1948, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 and Bill Clinton in 1996. So if, as expected, the GOP takes the House this Election Day, the news isn't all bad for President Obama's re-election hopes.

Truman took office in 1945, after Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in office. A year later, his Democrats lost the majority. But two years after that, Truman decided to run against what he called the "Do Nothing Congress." He gave a speech at the 1948 Democratic Convention that was nowhere near conciliatory — it was an all-out assault on Capitol Hill Republicans.

"Now my friends, with the help of God and the wholehearted push which you can put behind this campaign," Truman said, "we can save this country from a continuation of the 80th Congress, and from misrule from now on. I must have your help. You must get in and push, and win this election. The country can't afford another Republican Congress."

Truman's strategy worked. He was re-elected, and Democrats swept back into control of Congress.

The story was the same for Eisenhower.

Read more at NPR.

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