Monday, November 15, 2010

Are primaries being undermined?

Jonathan Bernstein notes an interesting phenomenon from the past year.  In three different elections (Alaska Senate, Colorado governor, and the NY-23 special House election), the winner of the Republican primary was undermined in the general election by a conservative candidate who had the backing of disgruntled Republicans.  This is important for the reasons Jon mentions -- primaries were designed to give legitimacy and finality to party nominations.  If the primary doesn't really settle anything, then parties are much more prone to splintering.

Do three cases constitute a trend?  I'm willing to county Joe Lieberman's 2006 re-election campaign as another case along these lines.  Maybe these are flukes -- the Lieberman race occurred when Democrats were unusually split on the Iraq War, and the recent Republican races occurred during a time of unusual Tea Party activity directed, sometimes, against the Republican establishment.  But if this is an actual trend, party leaders have a lot to worry about.


Anonymous said...

He's wrong about the Alaska senate election. A conservative won the Republican nomination (Joe Miller), who was re-challenged by a moderate Republican (Lisa Murkowski) in the general election.

Anonymous said...

It was Miller who had the disgruntled Republicans compared to Murkowski who had the Democrats who found Scott McAdams to be a weak candidate, the Independents, and a portion of Republicans who are her die-hard supporters.