Republican Weakness In Defeating Democratic Incumbents In Senate Races A Long Term Trend!

In all of the discussion of US Senate races in the upcoming Midterm Elections of 2014, many fail to realize the historical record of the failure of Republicans to have much success in defeating Democratic incumbents over a long period of time, while Democrats have been much more successful in that regard.

From 1946 to 2012, only TWICE have Republicans been able to defeat a large number of Democratic incumbents–1946 (10) and 1980 (12).

Since 1982, the number of Democratic incumbents defeated in each two year cycle has never been more than two, and six times there have been NO Democratic incumbents defeated.

Meanwhile, Democrats have defeated Republican incumbents in large numbers many times—8 in 1948; 10 in 1958; 7 in 1986; 5 in 2000; and 6 in 2006.

So to assume that a large number of Democratic incumbents, including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; Kay Hagan of North Carolina; Mark Begich of Alaska; Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Mark Udall of Colorado; Al Franken of Minnesota; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; Tom Udall of New Mexico; and Mark Warner of Virginia will be defeated, defies history!

Since World War II, the reelection rate for US Senators is 80 percent.

And since 1980, Democrats have defeated 38 Republican incumbents, to just 12 for Republicans defeating Democratic incumbents!

2 comments on “Republican Weakness In Defeating Democratic Incumbents In Senate Races A Long Term Trend!

  1. D September 1, 2014 11:32 am

    Adding to what was written and presented by Ronald: The midterm congressional elections of 1994, in which Republicans had their “Revolution” and won over majority control of the U.S. House (first time in 40 years!) and U.S. Senate, also supports what was pointed out by Ronald.

    In 1994, the Republicans went into that election with 44 seats in their caucus. They flipped 8 Democratic-held seats to win over majority control with 52. But, just two incumbent Democrats were unseated: Pennsylvania’s Harris Wofford (by Rick Santorum) and Tennessee’s Jim Sasser (by Bill Frist).

    In 2010, when Republicans did not win over majority control but went into that election cycle with 41 in their Senate caucus, they flipped 6 Democratic-held seats. But, just two incumbent Democrats were unseated: Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln (by John Boozman) and Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold (by Ron Johnson).

    Contrast this to 2006, when Democrats were in the minority with 45 in their Senate caucus. They went into Election Day needing to flip 6 Republican-held seats to win over majority control. They succeeded. And a then-future bellwether presidential state Virginia became the last in timeline order to deliver. All of the pickups came with the unseating of incumbent Republican U.S. senators: Missouri’s Jim Talent (by Claire McCaskill), Montana’s Conrad Burns (by Jon Tester), Ohio’s Mike DeWine (by Sherrod Brown), Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum (by Bob Casey), Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee (by Sheldon Whitehouse), and Virginia’s George Allen (by Jim Webb). All the Democratic pickup winners of 2006 won re-elections in 2012 with exception of Virginia’s Jim Webb, who opted not to seek re-election; his seat was retained in the Democratic column by Virginia’s current junior U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine. (Kaine defeated Allen, who had attempted to win back his old seat. And Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, elected the state’s 74th governor in 2010—as an independent—is now a Democrat.)

    Some of this has just involved opportunity. Some of this featured other dynamics. Through the 1990s (and you can count 2000 and 2004), Tennessee was a presidential bellwether state (it voted for all winners, except in 1924 and 1960, from 1912 to 2004) that transitioned to a partisan-identified Republican state. Arkansas—which carried for all election winners of the nine cycles of 1972 to 2004—is looking this way in the 2010s. After the 2008 presidential election, three of the state’s four congressional districts were in the Democratic column. But, now all four House seats are moved over to the Republican column. And in another former bellwether state, Delaware (which carried for all presidential winners of the 1950s through 1990s; it also carried in 22 of 25 presidential elections of the 20th century), the 1994 re-elected Republican U.S. Sen. William Roth became unseated in 2000 by Thomas Carper (who has since won re-elections in 2006 and 2012). This is from a state, not unlike Tennessee, which now has a strong partisan identification—as Democratic. With Michigan, whose “swing state” status has been long overestimated (it was very close to national presidential outcomes with Elections 1984, 1988, and 1992), it also had a Republican U.S. Senate pickup in 1994 with Spencer Abraham. That was an open seat race. But, no Republican has won a U.S. Senate seat thereafter—and Abraham became unseated in 2000 by Debbie Stabenow (the first woman in the history of Michigan elected to and serving in the U.S. Senate. She was re-elected in 2006 and 2012 quite easily. Abraham became George W. Bush’s energy secretary in the 43rd president’s first term). Running almost parallel to a 1994 Michigan was the state of Washington. That year, Slade Gordon was the re-elected Republican. But, in 2000, Gordon became unseated by Maria Cantwell (who, like Debbie Stabenow, handily won re-elections in 2006 and 2012; in terms of margins, Cantwell and Stabenow outpaced Barack Obama’s 2012 margins in Washington and Michigan). And these Democratic senatorial pickups happened in those two states—Michigan and Washington—despite a Republican presidential pickup year. Ever since these realignments and counter-realignments of particular states, Tennessee has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Al Gore’s second-term re-election in 1990. With Delaware, Michigan, and Washington, they haven’t elected Republicans to the Senate since that ground-breaking year of 1994. And there are states which have been closed off (to the other party) dating back even further. (No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat from the now-Republican presidential base state of Texas since 1988. No Republican has won a U.S. Senate seat from the now-Democratic presidential base state of California since 1988. No Republican has won a U.S. Senate seat from the now-Democratic presidential base state of Connecticut since 1982. No Republican has won a U.S. Senate seat from the now-Democratic presidential base state of New Jersey since 1972. No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat from the now-Republican presidential base state of Wyoming since 1970.) These are heavily dramatic, partisan-identification voting patterns from numerous states.

    Here in 2014, the Republicans are favored to flip 3 Democratic-held U.S. Senate seats: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. If those all come through, none of them would be with the unseatings of incumbent Democrats. All are retiring Democrats (or, in the case of Montana’s Max Baucus, he’s already out of the Senate). So, the Republicans—with 45 in their caucus and with a need to flip 6 Democratic-held seats—would have to unseat some incumbent Democrats. If this materializes, it’s likely Arkansas’s Mark Pryor would be one. And it would probably involve Alaska’s Mark Begich; though Begich has been an above-average campaigner in a Republican state five decades old which has carried Democratic just once for president (Lyndon Johnson’s 44-state landslide against Barry Goldwater in Election 1964). There is speculation that Iowa may deliver a Republican pickup because, in part, this open-seat race has Democratic nominee and congressman Bruce Brailey rather underwhelming—and Republican Joni Ernst is either polling better or rendering that state a tossup race. (If the Democrats fail to hold that seat, it would be bad news to them. In presidential elections won by the party, they carry Iowa—and do so about two points above their national margin[s].)

    I’m not dismissive of the Republicans’ chances in 2014; I noted, in another thread, that Republicans like Mitch McConnell—in their heavily Republican-carrying presidential states—should be winning re-elections (or party holds) by stronger margins here in 2014 vs. that of 2008. (McConnell is pooring worse. That, plus with several Republican-held governor mansions, creates an obstacle.) But, I do agree that if the Republicans succeed with having reached the six needed to flip majority control of the U.S. Senate, at least four of them would come courtesy of open seats. But, hey, there is 2016! The Republicans will have to have a Republican pickup of the presidency to retain a then-Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. That’s because, in Elections 2004, 2008, 2012, approximately 70 to 80 percent of the states with scheduled U.S. Senate races ended up seeing those states carry for the same political party at both the presidential and senatorial levels. Some high-profile states have been in the habit of same-party carriage for some time: Wisconsin (last Republican presidential carriage of the state was Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984) has been at it since 1976. Ohio (the nation’s most-reputatable presidential bellwether state) has been it at since 1992. And, with it trending to likely become the next presidential bellwether state, North Carolina has been on this pattern since 1972. (Kay Hagan’s unseating of Elizabeth Dole marked the first time Democrats carried the senate and presidential races in that state since 1960!) So, while looking at all this as some sort of stock numbers for both parties, and that it implies the Republicans are really up with 2014, just wait for the next cycle, in which it could be the Democrats—with a presidential realigning period favoring their party (and my not mentioning Democratic base states with any Republican U.S. Senators’ seats on the schedule in two years—with potential becoming reascended in 2016.

  2. Ronald September 1, 2014 1:55 pm

    WOW, another great analysis, D! I am so happy for your contributions to this blog! Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.