Current Generic Congressional Vote (14 day rolling average): 44-43% Republican
Prior Generic Congressional Vote (14 day rolling average): 42-40% Republican
The anti-incumbent wave which in 2010 cost 63 Congressmen (7 in the primary and 56 on Election Day) their jobs showed no signs of abating after last night’s primaries in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia. The latest casualty was 36 year incumbent Republican Senator Richard Lugar (he last had a competitive race in 1982). He could only receive the support of 39% of Indiana Republicans, and his poor showing was due to a combination of things: his lengthy Senate tenure, his lack of an Indiana presence (he has not lived in Indiana in decades), and a perception that he was too accommodating to President Obama specifically and Democrats in general.
This anti-incumbent wave has consistently been more pronounced with Republican primary voters – even though the six primary casualties have come equally from the Democratic and the Republican ranks, all but one of the Democratic defeats have been due to reapportionment. Furthermore, in addition to the three Republicans who have been defeated so far, seven more Republican incumbents have been renominated with less than 60% of the vote. And 41 states haven’t held their primaries yet.
Are these six primary losses an especially large number? It seems that way, although we are still in the early stages of “primary season”. In 2010, seven incumbents (three Democrats and four Republicans) were defeated in their primaries, while the anti-incumbent year of 1992 produced 15 primary defeats (12 Democrats and 3 Republicans).
For months, the Republican Presidential contest has overshadowed these Congressional primaries, although with the Republican field effectively cleared out (since the last article, both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are no longer contesting the race), we can now turn our focus to these races. And almost by coincidence, this will be a busy month for statewide primaries: there are six more primaries to be held before May 31, with three (Idaho, Nebraska, and Oregon) coming up next Tuesday.
Similarly, Congressional filing has been relatively quiet recently, although 32 states have concluded their qualifying. The next filing deadlines will be on May 15 in Michigan and May 18 in Washington State. Thus far, 48 House members (28 Democrats and 20 Republicans) and 11 Senators (7 Democrats and 4 Republicans) are not returning this fall. This group of 59 Congressmen is actually a larger group than the 52 who retired in 2010, but is still less than the 64 who retired in 1996 (the 1994 GOP landslide triggered a wave of retirements from (mostly) Democrats who did not want to be in the minority). Similarly, it’s worth noting that 18 more states have not concluded their filing deadlines, so there may very well be additional retirements.
Current President Obama Job Approval (14 day rolling average): 48-49%
Prior President Obama Job Approval (14 day rolling average): 47-48%
Equally as newsworthy as the Congressional results were the Presidential results. Republicans have quickly coalesced behind Mitt Romney: now that only Ron Paul is in the race, Romney’s winning percentages have finally spiked – his weakest showing last night was the 65% of the vote he received in Indiana.
What was newsworthy were the results on the Democratic side. We had noticed for some time that in the handful of states that have bothered to hold a Democratic primary, President Obama has not been the unanimous choice of his party’s voters, and his relative strength depends on whether he has a named opponent or not. In the first table (shown below), we have ranked Obama’s percentages in the states where he ran against “Uncommitted.” In general, his numbers were respectable, but not unanimous, and last night’s results in North Carolina (where he received 79%) should give the Obama campaign cause for concern, since this was a state he unexpectedly carried in 2008, and even then, it was by a narrow margin. Having 20% of Democratic primary voters against you in that context means that this state is almost certain to vote for Romney in November.
|State||Obama percentage against “uncommitted”|
Where Obama’s problems really come into focus is when he has had a named opponent (or opponents), which we have detailed in the table below – the West Virginia results were particularly eye opening:
|State||Obama percentage against named opponent(s)|
President Obama should be concerned about the West Virginia numbers for two reasons: (1) he was running against a convicted felon who is in jail in Texas, (2) President Obama’s level of support even in West Virginia was uneven: he lost 10 rural counties, and if you look at the counties not containing government employees or universities (where 82% of the vote was cast), Obama only received 57% of the Democratic primary vote.
Granted, President Obama was not expected to carry West Virginia (this was one of his weakest primary and general election states in 2008, and his popularity hasn’t improved since then), but the Democratic voting demographic in that state (rural, blue collar, unionized) is also present in portions of Ohio and Pennsylvania – states Obama needs to carry this fall.
In coming weeks, we will look at the general election map, since it is important to follow the Presidential race from where it really counts: the individual states.