Key Takeaways 

  • Recent elections show second-term presidents rarely

    benefit from a unified Congress. A second-term Biden

    administration would probably face divided

    government and would struggle to implement policy.

  • If Trump wins the GOP primary and the presidential

    race, the rarity of non-consecutive terms makes

    predicting Congressional implications difficult. But

    Trump’s “coattail” effect down-ticket could be weaker

    than new presidents typically generate.

  • Stepping back, divided government is becoming more

    common. The US has not experienced consecutive

    congressional terms with all three pillars under one

    party since 2007.

  • Associated with this has been a faster turnover of

    majorities. Last century a party could on average

    expect to hold the House for 12 years and the Senate

    for 8.4 years after winning a majority. This century that

    average has fallen to 4.8 years in both chambers.

  • Divided government has implications for how

    presidents implement their legislative agenda. The

    bulk of legislative action is likely to take place during a

    narrow window of unified government.

  • Partisan, divided government raises political risks

    around ‘must pass’ legislation such as the debt ceiling

    and makes substantial fiscal response to major US

    challenges such as recessions less likely. The risk of

    one party overturning the legislative actions of its

    predecessors in government is also higher.



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