Congress may be more unpopular right now than cockroaches, colonoscopies and used car salesmen, but Americans have so far this year voted to back incumbent candidates against their primary challengers.
“Incumbency is a powerful force that yields both name recognition, resources and the experience of running an actual campaign. These things matter,” Republican consultant Dina Fraioli told TheBlaze. “I mean, these politicians have voted against Obamacare and that’s more powerful than voters hatred of Congress.”
In fact, as of this writing, not a single incumbent candidate has been unseated by voters who claim they are unhappy with Congress, National Journal reported.
“In Tuesday’s congressional primaries, incumbents went 45 for 45, and establishment Republicans won easy victories against their tea-party rivals,” the report said. “Despite how much voters say they hate the current Congress, they still like them better than their primary challengers.”
Now, although incumbent candidates have been safe in 2014’s primary elections, the November midterms could be an entirely different story — especially for Senate Democrats.
“A survey of the national landscape finds that open Democratic seats in South Dakota and, to a lesser extent, West Virginia will be extremely difficult for the party to hold,” said National Journal’s Charlie Cook.
But it’s still odd that incumbent candidates have for the most part breezed through their primary elections despite the fact that Congress is so incredibly unpopular.
What possible explanation could there be?
“Incumbent reelection rates are rarely responsive to public opinion of Congress. Even in years when congressional approval tanks, incumbent turnover holds steady,” National Journal suggested.
Also, it’s important to note that although many Americans have historically held an unfavorable opinion of Congress, they generally approve of their own state lawmakers.
“Last May, when congressional approval was at 13 percent, Gallup found about 46 percent approved of the job their representative was doing,” National Journal reported. “This April, the AP asked a similar question, and found that while just 16 percent approved of Congress, 39 percent said they would like to see their member reelected. Of those who are most politically engaged, that figure was 44 percent.”
So, along with the help of redistricting that makes some lawmakers nearly untouchable, it seems pretty clear that incumbent candidates have historically enjoyed a primary election advantage.
“House reelection rates, in most cycles, are higher than 90 percent … For the Senate, those numbers are only slightly lower,” the report noted. “The Senate may very well flip to the Republicans, over a handful of seats, but the majority of the faces in the chamber will be the same.”
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