Wednesday, August 25, 2010

That anti-incumbent thing

Kevin Drum wants to know if this is really an anti-incumbent year.
Isn't there someone who's enough of a political junkie to give us the straight dope on this? How many incumbents have lost this year compared to 2006? Or 2002? Can't we put a number to this? If the number is a lot higher than the average midterm election, then the anti-Washington meme deserves to live. Otherwise it deserves to die. Which is it? Who's ready to tot up the results from the past few elections and tell us?
Well, John Sides has been all over this question for a while.  Here, he notes that a relatively high number of congressional incumbents may lose their seats this year, but that's like saying a relatively high number of 15-year old boys will get through this school year without masturbating.  We're not talking about large numbers here.  He estimates 87% of incumbents will retain their seats.

Over at Slate, Christopher Beam did a nice article (citing some work by Alan Abramowitz and Larry Sabato) showing that the number of incumbents who have lost their seats in this year's primaries has not been historically high.  The few who have gone down -- including Bennett, Specter, and maybe Murkowski -- are a pretty high profile bunch, so we shouldn't take this too lightly.  As Jon Bernstein notes, next year's GOP Senate caucus will look notably different, particularly on the moderate end.  But we're not talking about a massive wave of anti-incumbency here.

Still, I think it's fair to say that incumbents are having to work harder than normal to keep their jobs.  Just ask John McCain.

(h/t T. R. Donoghue)

Update: Sabato is keeping a running tally of incumbent losses here, with comparisons to previous years.

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