SPOTLIGHT

The Anti-Incumbent Tide

Sen. Pat Roberts introduces a video about Bob Dole's long history in public service. 
National Journal
Scott Bland
Aug. 5, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is favored in today’s Kan­sas primary. His col­league Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der (R-TN) heads in­to Ten­ness­ee’s Thursday primary with re­nom­in­a­tion fairly cer­tain, too. But even though that may mean no in­cum­bent sen­at­or loses re­nom­in­a­tion this cycle, there’s still ample evid­ence that anti-in­cum­bent sen­ti­ment is as ser­i­ous and dan­ger­ous as ever for sit­ting sen­at­ors.

— The No. 1 goal of every cam­paign is to win, and in­cum­bent cam­paigns have every reas­on to be pleased with their re­cords this cycle. But the string of Ws shouldn’t be mis­taken for a fade in the anti-in­cum­bent sen­ti­ment that con­trib­uted to five sen­at­ors los­ing bids for re­nom­in­a­tion from 2006 through 2012.

— The fo­cus on wins and losses makes sense from the per­spect­ive of con­gres­sion­al out­comes, but it doesn’t do justice to the elect­or­al at­mo­sphere. Already, five in­cum­bent sen­at­ors this year have won their primar­ies with less than two-thirds of the vote, something that happened only 19 times (out of 227 primar­ies) in the nine pre­vi­ous elec­tion years from 1996 to 2012. Roberts, Al­ex­an­der, and Sen. Bri­an Schatz (D-HI) could bump that fig­ure up to eight by the end of this week. Sure, no one has lost. (Though Sen. Thad Co­chran (R-MS) was bailed out by Mis­sis­sippi’s run­off rules after fin­ish­ing second in the ini­tial primary.) But many in­cum­bents’ mar­gin for er­ror has shrunk con­sid­er­ably.

— And the close calls do have some ef­fect on con­gres­sion­al out­comes. Con­ser­vat­ives es­pe­cially have been watch­ing cer­tain sen­at­ors’ vot­ing re­cords move to­ward them in elec­tion years, fur­ther po­lar­iz­ing the parties from each oth­er, be­fore some­times mov­ing back again after a vic­tory. The same phe­nomen­on of more in­cum­bents win­ning their primar­ies with lower vote shares is evid­ent in the House, where mem­bers have to face their party bases every two years, with ob­vi­ous ef­fects. In oth­er words, don’t try to tell in­cum­bents there isn’t an anti-in­cum­bent feel­ing out there. They’re already play­ing de­fense against it.

Anti-in­cum­bency shouldn’t be ove­rhyped, giv­en how high reelec­tion rates con­tin­ue to be. But giv­en how much lower sen­at­ors’ mar­gin for er­ror seems to be drop­ping, that sen­ti­ment shouldn’t be un­der­sold, either.
— Scott Bland

What We're Following See More »
ALL RIDERS TO BE AFFECTED
Metro to Begin Rolling Closures Next Month
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Beginning next month, Metro will begin a series of "about 15 separate large-scale work projects," each of which will close down stations and/or sections of track for up to weeks at a time. The entire initiative is expected to take about a year. The Washington Post has a list of the schedule of closures, and which lines and stations they'll affect.

Source:
ANOTHER MEETING WITH PRIEBUS
Trump to Meet with Ryan, Leadership Next Week
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

A day after saying he could not yet support Donald Trump's presidential bid, House Speaker Paul Ryan has invited the billionaire to a meeting in Washington next week with House leadership. Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will also meet separately with Trump. 

Source:
‘EXACTING STANDARDS’
Obama on Trump: ‘This Is a Really Serious Job’
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Obama used the White House podium on Friday to dismiss Donald Trump as an unserious candidate to succeed him, and said leading the country isn't a job that's suited to reality show antics." At a briefing with reporters, the president said, "I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States. And what that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny."

Source:
MORE EXECUTIVE ORDERS
Panama Papers Spur White House to Crack Down on Evasion
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In the The White House on Thursday night unveiled a series of executive actions to combat money laundering—"among the most comprehensive response yet to the Panama Papers revelations." The president's orders will tighten transparency rules, close loopholes that allow "foreigners to hide financial activity behind anonymous entities in the U.S., and demand stricter “customer due diligence” rules for banks.

Source:
THE QUESTION
Who’s #NeverTrump Courting as Possible Candidates
4 hours ago
THE ANSWER

The #NeverTrump movement is now mulling the idea of recruiting a candidate to run as an independent or under a third-party banner. But who might it be? The Hill offers a preliminary list.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE)
  • Mitt Romney
  • 2012 (and perhaps 2016) Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson
  • Former Marine Gen. John Kelly
  • Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)
  • Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Source:
×