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Incumbent Protection Act

Here, Tom says:

Are some people finally going to stop calling it [McCain-Feingold] the “Incumbent Protection Act?” Because from where I sit, it looks like it did a piss-poor job of protecting incumbents

Really? Well, let’s see:

Consider that there were 435 races in the House and Senate with an incumbent trying to retain his or her seat. Only 26 – 6% — of challengers in these races have won. That’s pretty low for a “throw the bums out” election. Pending the outcome of three or four yet-to-be-determined races, this year’s 94% incumbent reelection rate appears to be slightly higher than the 90% rate of 1994.

So, it’s more like throw a small amount of the bums out. So, yeah, in a year supposedly marked by fed up and angry voters, only 6% of politicians lost their jobs. It’s a higher incumbency rate than the Republican Revolution. If that ain’t protecting incumbency, I don’t know what is.

7 Responses to “Incumbent Protection Act”

  1. Manish Says:

    The last sentence of the article:

    Just don’t forget to send ‘thank you’ cards to Senators McCain, Feingold, and all the gerrymandering folks who helped make your reelection possible.

    I think the gerrymandering is a larger factor than McCain-Feingold.

  2. tgirsch Says:

    I’m not sure it’s fair to compare 1994 to 2006 and blame the difference on McCain-Feingold. The better thing to do would be to compare the incumbency rate for the two or three elections before McCain-Feingold took effect, with the incumbency rate for elections governed by McCain-Feingold.

    This year’s incumbency rate of 94% is actually considerably lower than 2000’s 98% incumbency rate. In 2002, incumbency was 99%. In other words, prior to McCain-Feingold, incumbency was trending upward. Now I’m not arguing that McCain-Feingold is responsible for the downward trend, but you’ve offered zero evidence other than your say-so that M-F does anything to further protect incumbents or to put challengers at a further disadvantage. You haven’t given a single example of a provision which favors incumbents. Not one. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Near as I can tell, you just like saying “Incumbent Protection Act.”

    Also, CATO’s math is flawed. There are 435 seats total in the House. Not all of them were incumbents running for re-election. TN-9 (mine), for example, was an open seat. I’m sure it wasn’t the only one.

    Finally, Manish is right about gerrymandering being a FAR bigger factor.

  3. SayUncle Says:

    Not saying it’s a valid comparison just that there was less turnover than the supposed revolution (this one will be touted as such too).

  4. tgirsch Says:

    A little research shows that there were 28 open house seats, in which no incumbent was running for re-election. Of course, a little more research shows that 8 of the 28 seats which changed parties were open seats, meaning the actual incumbency rate is higher than CATO estimates, just over 95%. 🙂

    Then again, the Senate is an entirely different matter. The incumbency rate there was less than 80%. (There were four open seats in the 33 races, but all four of them stayed with the same party affiliation. Six of the remaining 29 incumbents were defeated.) I’m guessing that’s why CATO left the Senate out of their post. (And, of course, gerrymandering is meaningless in Senate races…)

  5. tgirsch Says:

    Oh, and according to my math, the incumbency rate in 1994 was just over 91%. There were a crapload of open seats in ’94 (49 of them). 34 incumbents lost their seats.

    And in 1994, the Republicans picked up 7 seats in the Senate, but only two of those were defeated incumbents. Of 35 seats in question (there were two special elections because of resignations), ten were open seats, and five of these switched parties. So the incumbency rate in the US Senate in 1994 was 92%.

    Comparatively speaking, the incumbency rate in 2006 was a bit higher (+4%) in the house than in 1994, and the incumbency rate in the Senate was considerably lower (-11%) in 2006 than in 1994.

  6. tgirsch Says:

    D’oh, GOP picked up 8 seats in 1994, 6 of them were open seats w/no incumbent.

  7. DirtCrashr Says:

    My state (CA) is so gerrymandered (by the Democrats) that all seats are safe for the next hundred years. I just worry about the “bi-partisan” hokum-wand they seem to now be waving, as one person said, “There’s the Stupid Party and the Evil Party, and when they come together to do somethign really stupid and evil, they call it “bipartisanship”…