2010: The Year Of The Anti-Incumbents? Not Really.

2010: The Year Of The Anti-Incumbents? Not Really.


So, I’ve definitely been guilt of pushing the anti-incumbent meme, but it’s appearing as if the exact opposite is true.

By a margin of 317-7 (4 of which were Repubs, 1 of whom was Arlen Specter), incumbents have been winning primary fights left and right.

And the AFP is noticing…

PHOENIX, Arizona — Despite surging anti-incumbent fervor ahead of November legislative and state elections, no incumbent is expected to lose in US primary votes Tuesday, results that would deal a setback to insurgent candidates.

Voters head to the polls for primary elections in Arizona, Florida, Vermont and Alaska and results are being closely watched as a litmus test of voter mood.

Tuesday’s results may predict whether insurgent candidates, especially Republicans backed by staunchly anti-government Tea Party groups, will continue to make advances over those with more moderate views.

And, while I’m not a big fan, Rachel Maddow called this back in early June…

But what about the Tea Party? Weren’t they supposed to be taking the country back this year?

Don’t believe everything that Fox News tells you…

The Tea Party movement, which sprung up in 2009 as a grass roots revolt against Obama’s tax, economic and health reform policies, has electrified the Republican Party base.

Taking its name from a revolt against British rule in colonial Boston in 1773, the group has emerged as a powerful force in nominating Republicans for November’s mid-term legislative and gubernatorial elections.

Tea Party candidates have already won important Senate primary victories in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and in other states, over more mainstream Republicans.

But Tuesday’s results may show the anti-incumbent narrative has been oversold.

Well, I take that back…it might be the year of the anti-incumbent sentiment in the Republican party…but so far you’re not seeing a lot of attrition when it comes to those voting for politicians who are already in office.

More as it develops…

  • kranky kritter

    I don’t recall a single person predicting that the current high tide of anti-incumbent sentiment was something that would manifest in the primaries. Not one.

    Everyone I have read who has spoken about anti-incumbent sentiment has predicted it would result in the ouster of more incumbents than usual in the fall mid-term congressional elections.

    So you’re debunking a “myth” that no one has been sporting. I expect that kind of moronic straw-manning from the likes of Rachel Maddow. And from Fox News, on other issues.

    But from you, Justin? I find myself wondering whether you even managed to finish this post with a straight face. I mean, WTF? Seriously.

  • theWord

    yawn– I have heard no one making a distinction between primaries and general. The meme has been “throw the bums out is sweeping the nation.” It isn’t, It might but part of it is convincing everyone that it is what “WE” all think. Hell, then there would be no need to think for yourself. Especially when it’s brought us such stunningly qualified candidates like Angle.

  • kranky kritter

    Word, it’s fairly uncommon for incumbents to face substantive challenges from members of their own party in primaries. That’s because political parties are so clubby. Most folks know this.

    I can’t really speak to whatever let’s say Fox News might have said was going to happen in the primaries. But I know for a fact that lots of incumbents ran unopposed or without serious opposition. So “throw the bum out” wasn’t even on the menu in the majority of primaries. How many incumbents will run unopposed in the general election? Far, far, fewer.

    You wanna think dissatisfaction with government isn’t unusually high, go ahead. You wanna believe we won’t see higher than usual congressional turnover come November, knock yourself out. You read whatever tea leaves you want, and heed whatever signs console you.

    Everything I see and hear says otherwise. I think you’re flat-out wrong. I’ve been waiting for the fall mid-terms to see the extent of anti-incumbent sentiment. That’s when it’ll show. And I’m still waiting. When the mid-terms come, we’ll all be stuck picking representatives. And as always, we’ll still be stuck deciding whether the challenger is a better choice.

    In that atmosphere, incumbents are stuck trying to explain away the crappy current state of affairs. I hope that doesn’t mean that angry, harebrained opportunists like Angle get elected. IMO, it’s the kookiest ones like Angle who work against a high turnover trend. Whenever a fringy candidate makes the general election, folks tend to hold their noses and vote for a flawed but sane incumbent over an angry loose cannon.

  • http://www.donklephant.com Justin Gardner

    kranky, agreed that the general election will be the better gauge of this, but still…if there was sweeping anti incumbent sentiment, that should also translate to the primary. And, as Maddow points out, the media has applied that meme SPECIFICALLY to the primaries. So, forgive me, but did you really watch the whole video?

    Also, I don’t think anybody is claiming that dissatisfaction isn’t high…but who will it be targeted at if no true anti-incumbent candidates are on the general election ballot? Also, do Republicans think that people will just forget what they did before Obama was in office?

    Last, agreed about Angle. Which is why I think it’s going to be hard for the Repubs to make any significant gains. The only new folks coming on board are off the reservation…which leaves the majority of challengers being establishment candidates…and what are they really going to say? Because, when you look around, Obama’s ratings might be low, but they’re much higher than Republicans’.

    Just saying…this meme may be false because the Tea Party has been overblown by Fox News and the other networks have latched on to a narrative that doesn’t sync up with reality. I don’t think that’s laughable at all. In fact, it seems just as viable, if not moreso, than the current story we’re being sold.

  • kranky kritter

    Well. I can’t really be responsible for “the meme the media applied.” They’re controversy dependent. So naturally they did their damnedest to make the primaries seem interesting and crucial despite the fact that no one sensible really expected more than a small handful of incumbents to lose their primary. I don’t know of any responsible thinkers or prognosticators who thought that an anti-incumbent vibe would manifest primarily in the primaries. Our system simply isn’t set up for that to happen.

    Primaries are supposed to be for the parties to choose their candidate for rhe general election. And parties rubber stamp their own incumbents, what, at least 95% of the time at a guess? And voters almost invariably go along. Just describing history as I have experienced it there.

    Also, I don’t think anybody is claiming that dissatisfaction isn’t high…but who will it be targeted at if no true anti-incumbent candidates are on the general election ballot? Also, do Republicans think that people will just forget what they did before Obama was in office?

    You’re looking at it quite differently than me. The way I look at it is this: in every election where the incumbent has an opponent, that opponent is the anti-incumbent. I really don’t think it’s much more sophisticated than every single challenger using the following easily available and popularly compelling argument:

    • Things are going terribly for all you regular folks I care deeply about.
    • My [email protected], out-of-touch opponent has let you all down.
    • Therefore, you should vote for me, because I can do better. How could I not?

    I do agree with you that Obama is far less despised than some folks are trying to portray. I think he remains a trustworthy and sympathetic figure, and that many folks understand what a terrible mess he inherited. But he won’t be on mulligan time come 2012.

    And I also agree that incumbent democrats can get some mileage out of the whole “they ran the car into the ditch and now they want the keys back?” But not enough to avoid taking substantial hits in congressional numbers come November. Democrats almost certainly will hold the senate while losing 5-8 seats. They’ll lose a similar number of governorships, too, I suspect. And I suspect that when all is said and done the house will be closely divided. It’s 255-178 for democrats right now. Come Christmas, I expect both parties will be in the 210-230 range.

    And, of course, I expect that democratic partisans such as yourself will try to spin such a noticeable swing back to the right as something else. You’ve got almost 3 months to figure out what that spin will be. Probably, as long as democrats retain the house. Y’all will go with declaring that a victory. “We’re still in charge!”

    If democrats do by some chance lose the house, it’ll be hard to spin that away as undisasterous.

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    I do think those in the media who were flogging the “anti-incumbent meme” did so because it was a bit of fig leaf to cover up the more accurate “anti-Democratic Party” meme.

    In general, out of the hard left cable shows, I think Maddow is top of the heap. By that, I mean I can actually watch her show all the way through on occasion, even more often than I can get through Hardball, whereas Olbermann and Ed are completely unwatchable. However her triumphalism at “proving” the somewhat less lefty mainstream media wrong about their fictional “anti-incumbent” fig leaf narrative is just bizarre.

    The reality is that this is not an anti-incumbent year, it is an anti-Democrat year, and the only question is how big the tidal wave will be. People are not going to be voting for Republicans in November, they will be voting against Democrats. Similar to 2008, when many people were not voting for Obama so much as they were voting against GWB, and the Obama campaign successfully painted McCain with the Bush brush.

    Obviously, this year the Democratic strategy is to apply the same strategy again. A little unimaginative, but why not? it worked last time. I’m guessing it will not be effective since – you know – the things that were bad about the previous administration, including spending, deficits, employment, civil rights have all gotten significantly worse since we’ve had One Party Democratic Rule. Particularly with spending and deficits, when it is going to be difficult to ignore the fact that Obama has been far worse in less than two years than Bush was in eight.

    So to answer Justin’s question:“Do Republicans think that people will just forget what they did before Obama was in office?”

    They might remember in 2012 assuming the Republicans take at least one house of Congress, and that will work to Obama’s advantage. But this year there is a more relevant question:

    Do Democrats really think that people will forget what Democrats and Obama have done to this country in the last two years?

    One indicator of just how big the tidal wave might be is in Nevada where Angle and Reid poll within the margin of error. That is pretty astonishing – I don’t think there is much of an Angle vote there – it is a mostly a pure Anti-Democrat vote. And that means the mid-terms are starting to look very tsunami-like to me.

    The Nevada Senate race is also useful in answering Kranky’s question about what Democrats will be saying should the GOP retake one house of Congress. Ask a Democrat to explain the dead heat polls in Nevada. If you hear phrases like “stupid, ignorant, racist voters” – that is exactly what you can expect to hear from that Democrat on November 3rd.

  • Chris

    “Do Democrats really think that people will forget what Democrats and Obama have done to this country in the last two years?”

    Here’s my relevant question: Do Republicans really think that people will forget what Republicans and Bush did for 8 years?

    The answer is yes of course. Then we shall see the true definition of insanity. Doing the same thing twice but expecting a different outcome.