President Obama's greatest setback to date has been the 2010 midterm elections. Gains that Republicans scored in the House and Senate still circumscribe his agenda. It is no surprise, then, that the Obama White House wants to achieve something no other president has ever done: Retake full control of Congress in a midterm.
The party of an incumbent president traditionally loses seats in midterm elections. The usual strategy is simply to minimize the damage. Yet Mr. Obama and many Democrats are so buoyed by national polls and the buzz from the November election that they sense a chance to make history by holding their 10-seat Senate majority (counting the two independents who caucus with them) and picking up the needed 17 House seats. That would clear the way for Democratic legislative aims.
A few factors work in the Democrats' favor. After all, the Democratic Senate majority might be secure if for no other reason than the GOP's habit of squandering opportunities by nominating weak candidates. House Republicans are much more unpopular than House Democrats—on average 15 percentage points lower in nine postelection national polls.