So Much For the Anti-Incumbent Wave of 2014

One theory about how the 2014 cycle was going to turn out focused on the very high indices of unhappiness with Washington and with Congress, and predicted high casualty rates for incumbents.

Well, I suppose it could happen in November (though a bipartisan anti-incumbent wave is the Loch Ness Monster of electoral phenomena). But as Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball points out, the primary season so far is making this a banner year for incumbent survival:

So far this cycle, 273 of 275 House incumbents who wanted another term have been renominated, and 18 of 18 Senate incumbents. That includes results from the 31 states that have held their initial primaries; while a few of those states — Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina — have runoffs coming up later this month, those overtime elections for House or Senate seats are all in open seats.

This is a better performance than the postwar averages in both chambers. Since the end of World War II, just 1.6% of House incumbents who have sought another term were not renominated by their party, and just 4.6% of Senate incumbents.

To put it another way, Eric Cantor’s loss in Virginia constitutes exactly one-half of the incumbent primary losses in either party this cycle (so far). That’s all the more reason it was so noteworthy.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.