National League victory has preceded each of the nine election cycles with double-digit GOP gains in U.S. House since 1950; All-Star classic also prescient of big partisan swings in U.S. Senate
While the American League has not lost an All-Star game in 14 years, and will be the home team at the annual classic Tuesday evening at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, Republicans in Washington, D.C. should be crossing their fingers that the National League will prevail for the first time since 1996.
A Smart Politics analysis of All-Star game history and U.S. House elections over the past 60 years finds that a National League victory has preceded each of the last nine election cycles in which Republicans have enjoyed double-digit gains in the House since 1950.
The last time the GOP scored a substantial victory in the U.S. House was, of course, in 1994 – picking up 54 seats during the Republican Revolution that November.
On July 12th earlier that summer, the National League ended a six-game losing streak with a dramatic come-from-behind 8-7 victory. The NL scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie it up and won the game in the bottom of the 10th when San Diego’s Tony Gwynn scored on a double by Montreal’s Moises Alou.
The second biggest House Republican victory since 1950 took place in 1966, with the GOP winning back 47 seats after yielding 36 seats to the Democrats when LBJ was elected in 1964.
In the All-Star game on July 12, 1966, after spotting the American League a run in the top of the 2nd inning, the National League came back to tie the game in the 4th and won on a single by the Dodgers’ Maury Wills in the bottom of the 10th.
The third biggest GOP U.S. House coup in the second half of the 20th Century was a 34-seat gain in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected President.
On July 8th of that year, the National League again came from behind, scoring four unanswered runs in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings to defeat the American League 4-2 – buoyed by a home run by Cincinnati’s Ken Griffey, Sr.
National League All-Star game victories have not just preceded the Republican tsunamis of 1966, 1980, and 1994 – but have occurred each and every time the GOP has scored double-digit gains in the U.S. House since 1950:
· In 1950, Republicans gained 28 seats in the House with the National League winning 4-3 in 14 innings that July.
· In 1952, the GOP netted 22 seats in the lower chamber with the National League winning 3-2 in 5 innings, in the only shortened game in All-Star history.
· In 1960, House Republicans gained 21 seats, with the National League winning both All-Star games that were held that summer: 5-3 on July 11th in Kansas City and 6-0 on July 13th at Yankee Stadium in New York.
· In 1972, Republicans netted 12 U.S. House seats while the NL scored a 4-3 come-from-behind victory in 10 innings.
· In 1978, the GOP won 15 seats in the House, three months after the National League notched yet another come-from-behind victory, 7-3 in San Diego.
· In 1984, Republicans gained 16 seats in the House while the National League eked out a 3-1 victory at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
A National League victory does not guarantee major GOP gains in the House – it has been a necessary but not sufficient condition for Republican success in modern political history. (National League victories have also occasionally preceded big gains by House Democrats: in 1964, 1970, 1974, and 1982).
However, over the past 60 years one thing is for certain: an American League victory in the summer classic has meant either only modest gains by Republicans in the House (in 1962, 1992, 2004) or, more likely, gains by the Democrats (in 1948, 1954, 1958, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1998, 2000, 2006, 2008).
But the All-Star game has not simply been a crystal ball for outcomes in the U.S. House; it has also been an even more accurate predictor of large seat swings in the U.S. Senate.
Since 1948, all four election cycles in which Republicans have gained five or more U.S. Senate seats were preceded by National League victories that summer (1950, 1968, 1980, 1994).
· In 1950, the GOP netted five seats in the Senate while the National League won 4-3.
· In 1968, Republicans again netted five seats in the Senate, as the National League blanked the American League 1-0, with its only run a result of a single, an error, a wild pitch, and a double play.
· In 1980, Republicans won 12 Senate seats while the NL won 4-2 in the 51st All-Star classic.
· In 1994, Republicans won eight seats in the Senate during the Republican Revolution, while the National League won 8-7 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, all five election cycles in which Democrats won five or more Senate seats since 1948 were preceded by American League victories that July (1948, 1958, 1986, 2006, 2008).
· In 1948, Senate Democrats gained 9 seats after the American League won 5-2 in St. Louis.
· In 1958, Democrats gained 16 Senate seats, three months after the American League scored a 4-3 victory in the Diamond Jubilee classic.
· In 1986, Democrats netted eight Senate seats after the American League won 3-2, backed by game MVP Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox.
· In 2006, Democrats gained six seats in the Senate to win back control of the chamber in dramatic fashion with narrow victories in Virginia and Montana; earlier that summer the American League also won a nail-biter with Texas’ Michael Young lacing a two-run triple with two outs in the ninth inning for a 3-2 victory.
· In 2008, Democrats won eight more seats to flirt with a filibuster-proof majority, while Michael Young was again the hero for the American League – delivering a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 15th inning at Yankee Stadium in the longest game in All-Star history (4 hours, 50 minutes).
In an election cycle with all the momentum pointing towards the Republican Party, Democrats in D.C. are hoping that the American League – which boasts six of the top eight teams with the best winning percentage in baseball – can avoid defeat for a record 15th consecutive year.
Such a victory may finally give Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi something to cheer about in Washington these days.
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