The Presidents that Did the Best for their Party in Congress

by Jonathan Hobratsch

I’ve decided to write a blog about presidential administrations and their ability to help their party in both houses of Congress. In doing so, I looked at the numbers for each congressional session (a session lasts for two years).

Presidents were judged on four categories that I am weighing equally:

  • Inspiration — Added members of Congress the same year the new president was elected.
  • Control and/or gain — Judging the administrations ability to keep their party in power, and to increase those numbers, if possible.
  • Policy Action – The administration’s ability to inaugurate sweeping reform through Congress, especially when their own party is in power.
  • Transition – Their ability to increase or maintain a strong lead in Congress for their party upon leaving office.

In my notes, I gave each president a letter grade (A to F), which then translated into points (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0). I then averaged the total to present the ranking below. Naturally, Obama’s ranking will be guessed and with an asterisk. Presidents that assumed office after a death or resignation are either tagged with their predecessor’s administration, or are given their own spot, depending on the length of service. Ford and Andrew Johnson are given their own spots, despite having never been elected as president. Transition and inspiration is used for these latter situations, but are adjusted case-by-case. For ties, I’ve used my best judgment on which president should be elevated over the other on this list. Lastly, it should be noted that this is not a ranking of the best presidents; although, this list may have some overlap with that sort of list.

Here is the rankings below:

1.  Franklin Roosevelt 16 [note: the only perfect grade.]

2. Thomas Jefferson 15

3. George Washington 14

4. Abraham Lincoln 14

5. Theodore Roosevelt 14

6. Andrew Jackson 13

7. Lyndon B. Johnson 13

8. William McKinley 13

9. Warren G. Harding/Calvin Coolidge 12 [note: 4 points from Harding’s campaign and election.]

10. John F. Kennedy 12

11. James Madison 12

12. James K. Polk 11

13. Franklin Pierce 11

14. Woodrow Wilson 10

15. John Adams 10

16. James Monroe 10

17. Barack Obama 10 [note: He’s projected to take back the senate and make decrease the deficit in the House. If he fails to take the Senate and makes little or no gain in the House, then he would fall to an 8.]

18. Ronald Reagan 9

19. Martin Van Buren 9

20. Ulysses S. Grant 9

21. Jimmy Carter 9 [note: could have been way higher, but was often blocked by his dominant party in Congress.]

22. Harry S. Truman 8

23. Grover Cleveland 8 [note: the two non-consecutive terms averaged into one grade]

24. James Garfield/Chester A. Arthur 8 [note: 3 points from Garfield’s campaign and election]

25. Herbert Hoover 8

26. Richard Nixon 7

27. Dwight D. Eisenhower 7

28. George H. W. Bush 7

29. Benjamin Harrison 7

30. Rutherford B. Hayes 7

31. George W. Bush 7

32. WH Harrison/John Tyler 7 [note: 4 points from Harrison’s campaign and election]

33. Bill Clinton 6

34. William Howard Taft 6

35. Gerald Ford 6

36. James Buchanan 5

37. John Quincy Adams 4

38. Zachary Taylor/Millard Fillmore 4 [note: 2 points from Taylor’s campaign and election]

39. Andrew Johnson 3

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