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Throwing the bums out is the bipartisan theme of 2012 primaries

Throwing the bums out is the bipartisan theme of 2012 primaries

If it had seemed like anti-incumbency fever reached its pitch in 2010, take another look at the sleeper phenomenon taking over the 2012 primary races. reports that, so far, a total of 135 incumbents have been defeated in the state legislative elections alone. This is an astounding number of defeats–nearly double the rate of incumbency defeats in 2012.

Bob Weeks reports from Kansas, which just held its primary on Tuesday, where 18 incumbents were defeated:

But yesterday, Kansas voters said goodbye to many of the left-wing Republicans — the so-called “moderates” or “traditional Republicans” — and nominated conservatives in their place. Some nominees face Democratic challengers in November.

The results are a surprise not only for the number of victories by conservatives, but the margin of victory.

It’s not just affecting Republicans; 44 of the 135 defeated incumbents were in Democratic primaries.

A report by’s Geoff Pallay analyzes the phenomenon and how it compares to 2012 in a report available on

While the percentage of incumbents defeated in primaries in 2012 might seem low, the increase is nonetheless impressive. Redistricting may have played a role; in the 2012 primaries, 40 of the 44 states are using maps different from those used in 2010. A number of these redistricting efforts were challenged in the courts, and some were thrown out as the primary elections drew near. While redistricting is usually assumed to make it more difficult for incumbents to be re-elected, the unsettled nature of district boundaries also meant that all candidates were scrambling to adjust to these new district boundaries and re-arranging their campaign strategies accordingly.

Such developments made challenging an incumbent in a primary election even more difficult than it was in 2010, when redistricting did not take place. The costs of campaigns may have been driven higher, and candidates taking on entrenched officeholders historically have found it difficult to raise money.

Finally, it is significant that a pronounced “anti-incumbent” sentiment already existed in 2010, which benefitted challengers no less than it did in 2012. A possible explanation for the higher victory rate for challengers is that the higher win rate for challengers in the 2010 general elections triggered more aggressive challenges this cycle. Emboldened by the results of 2010, stronger candidates may have come forward to challenge incumbents in 2012.

With both Democratic and Republican incumbents losing at a higher rate than 2010, it shows Americans on both sides of the aisle are fighting back against an entrenched political establishment.


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“With both Democrats and Republicans incumbents losing at a higher rate than 2010, it shows Americans on both sides of the aisle are fighting back against an entrenched political establishment.”

Anne, that isn’t logically supported by anything you said or linked to.

It can be almost entirely explained by the move toward greater conservative positions, driven by the TEA Party. How do you think it happened that “40 of the 44 states are using maps different from those used in 2010”? There was a tidal wave in 2010, on all levels of government, and that swept RED.

It almost certainly is explained by greater polarization of the American people. I’d expect that there are very few Deemocrat reformers who overcame incumbents.

How many moderate Deemocrats unseated more radical Collectivists?

    heimdall in reply to Ragspierre. | August 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    The red wave didn’t break the levies of the left coast unfortunately. However here in Washington, we may end up with a 5-5 split congressional delegation due to redistricting instead of a 5-4 advantage to dems. We may end up losing everything else here minus a wave of epic proportions against the democrats here in Washington.

      Ragspierre in reply to heimdall. | August 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Well, part of your problem is that you’ve been invaded by Californian ideas.

      My thoughts and best wishes….

      What Anne could provide…and I frankly don’t live in this level of logistical thinking…is the break-down of the Deemocrat incumbent-killers. How many ran as reformers? How many were more radical than their opponents? What were the themes they ran on.

      See, it is just not apparent they were elected by any kind of “bipartisan” current.

        heimdall in reply to Ragspierre. | August 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm

        Yeah tell me about it. Here, usually the democrats always run unopposed and are only challenged from the left. We have people running ads with communist talking points like it is normal to think this way.

        The good thing is that the Californians and the natives are very libertarian and consistently vote down tax increases except in king county where I am situated. We have only a sales tax/ property tax here and recently voted down a income tax on the top 1% earners before hating the 1% was cool. It really is a habit that the stupid voters need to break here of just voting for the guy with the “d” after their name.

    counsel4pay in reply to Ragspierre. | August 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    RAGS, your comments are often insightful, but I MUST DISAGREE WITH YOUR CRITICISM OF ANNE IN THIS INSTANCE


    It’s author’s credentials appear sufficient as well:

      Ragspierre in reply to counsel4pay. | August 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      I saw all that. And, not to be hard-headed (the furthest thing from me…!), but I don’t find anything that suggests a cause >>>> effect relationship supporting that Deemocrats are somehow voting out incumbents on the same basis as TEA Party people are tending to do.

      I see lots of uncovered variables.

Raggs, the major item is defeat if imcumbents. It really doesn’t matter D or R but replacing the Establishment. And that doesn’t sound like polerazation but rather universal disgust with the govorment

    Ragspierre in reply to serfer1962. | August 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I get the theme. I get your wanting it to be true.

    What I don’t see is a supported cause >>> effect relationship.

    Do you honestly think that Deemocrat voters are “disgusted with government”? I see them as being delighted with it, and wanting always to expand it. As being angry and frustrated at “obstructionist extremist Teabaggers”.

      serfer1962 in reply to Ragspierre. | August 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Well Rags I see you’re locked into you difinition of Kommiecrats. Many Dems have always voted Dem but now think that is no longer a reason.
      Not all Dems are Kommiecrats

Back in the good old days before surveys and political consultants, the house would regularly swap in massive swings. Partly because pols didn’t really know what people were thinking and the other part that a house rep represented only 50k people, so shifts in demographics and passions of various groups really meant a lot. by creating such large constituencies, we have allowed pols a highly effective nettings tools to swap out dissatisfied constituents with others. Perhaps we would all feel better about our reps if they were as personal as they were before.

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to imfine. | August 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    The also didn’t have computer programs that allowed them to run and rerun how each proposed gerrymandered district would help or hurt the party in control of redistricting. They used to gerrymander by township, ward and precinct by precinct. Now it is block by block, even building by building in urban areas.

The Ruling Class Establishment transcends political party and most of the ideological spectrum. But one thing they all have in common: they’re the slime beneath the slime, the lowest of the low and the crud at the bottom of the barrel. TAKING BACK OUR COUNTRY means getting rid of each and every one of these useless, worthless leeches on us taxpayers.

    Ragspierre in reply to MicahStone. | August 9, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    I have become a BIG supporter of term limits.

    BIG. Freaking. SUPPORTER!

      lichau in reply to Ragspierre. | August 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      Rags: I voted for term limits here in CA. probably would again. But, it is not very effective. What it did here was 1) eliminate a bunch of moderate GOP legislators and replace them with hard left Democrats. This probably would have happened over time anyway, but it accelerated it 2) it didn’t really get much of anyone new involved. They now spend their time and our money planning the next office they will run for. It also created a bunch of sinecure positions paying >$100K/yr for attending a meeting or two for those that have been “termed out” and haven’t got a new gig yet.

      Yes, I know I am writing from Occupied CA, the center of everything irrational, but take it as a caution.

      NC Mountain Girl in reply to Ragspierre. | August 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      Why? Because they worked out so well in California and Michigan?

      Do your homework. Term limits sound great in theory but in practice they end up empowering career bureaucrats and seasoned lobbyists. It’s to be expected when all the members of the oversight committees are limited to six or eight year’s service but the lobbyist for the special interests and the legislative liaison for the executive departments have decades of seniority.

      Two. Paradoxically term limits have discouraged politicians from exercising fiscal discipline. With a three term limit a state house member who wants to stay in politics has to quickly build a record to run on for higher office. Putting your name on a spending programs takes far less expertise than pushing for fiscal reform, plus the politicians who voted it in aren’t going to be there anyway when the program escalates out of control.

        Agree with all your comments, but have a question: What to do?

        I esp agree with the “focus on the short term” result of term limits. They use the resources of the office they hold to set up the next step. While all politicians have the next election as the most important thing on their list, those faced with term limits KNOW they are going to be gone–so make hay while the sun shines.

        Again: What to do?

          NC Mountain Girl in reply to lichau. | August 9, 2012 at 8:09 pm

          How much space do I have?

          End racial gerrymandering completely and minimize gerrymandering to create safe seats for incumbents. The most misshapen districts tend to have the most radical legislators and some of the lowest turnout.

          Shorten legislative sessions. The less time the political class spends in each others company the better. The Texas legislature meets every other year for 140 days. I’d rather have a bunch of 30 year veteran representatives in a Texas style legislative system than term limited members in legislature that meets year round.

          Congress and geographically large states shorten the work week when in session so as many members as possible can get home for the weekend. This has two benefits. Legislators get to talk with constituents about key issues as they are debated on key issues and it helps encourage normal people to run for office. The first thing Pelosi did when she became Speaker was end the Republican custom of not scheduling House sessions on Mondays and Fridays. Not only did this keep everyone in DC where she could works on them but for Reps with children it meant move the family to DC or forget seeing your kids grown up.

          Why not use teleconferencing and secure remote voting especially for committee hearings and special sessions limited to one or two issues? Some consulting businesses no longer assign partners and employees permanent offices. The customers are out there let’s not encourage the staff to sit here. Again think how many more people with young families and business owners might become interested in seeking legislative office if didn’t mean upending other parts of their lives- and how many attention seekers might settle on a different career if they were expected to stay in Podunk.

          Shorter sessions, weekends home and as much telecommuting as possible would also make narrow interest lobbying a lot harder to do. How many agribusiness lobbyists want to trek to Cheyenne Oklahoma or Detroit Lakes Minnesota in order to meet the chairman or ranking member of the House Ag Committee. Think also how obvious it would be to the constituents.

          Require every campaign contribution received for all elective offices at federal and state level be accessible on line within 48 hours. Ditto all engagement information of registered lobbyists.

          Adopt Glenn Reynolds revolving door 50% surtax on both former legislators and former political appointees for their earnings above their government salaries during the first three years after leaving office.

          Ragspierre in reply to lichau. | August 9, 2012 at 8:32 pm

          I endorse every one of those band-aides….

          along with STRICT term limits.

          Henry Hawkins in reply to lichau. | August 9, 2012 at 8:44 pm

          Spot on, NC Mt Girl. Great little essay there.

        Ragspierre in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | August 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm

        Well, I kinda figured out that it is not perfect.

        And I can cipher, tooo.

        It is just a LOT better.

          NC Mountain Girl in reply to Ragspierre. | August 9, 2012 at 8:14 pm

          Supporting a policy of dubious efficacy because it makes one feel virtuous is mighty liberal of you, Pags.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | August 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm

          The efficacy is NOT dubious. My response to your earlier post made it clear that your objections are, in fact, moot.

          I have a two word, irrefutable argument for term limits;

          Ted Kennedy.

          Want another? Barwny Fwank.

          How ’bout Dick Luger?

          We could go on, and on, and on…

        Ragspierre in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | August 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm

        “…they end up empowering career bureaucrats and seasoned lobbyists.”

        And that is a change from the base-line how?

        “With a three term limit a state house member who wants to stay in politics…”

        And that is a change from the base-line how? Plus, who says three terms, and who says concurrent terms in separate offices?

        counsel4pay in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | August 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm

        NC Mountain Girl:

        I respect your views, which are both shared and opposed throughout the political spectrum throughout the country. The articles available on-line on this subject are LEGION.

        CAN WE FIND FACTS to shine some probative light on this?


        “In the 23 states that have the Initiative Process (where voters can petition to place issues on the ballot), 21 states have voted for and won statewide term limits. Whenever politicians have tried to end term limits, they have been resoundingly defeated, and repeatedly so.”

        With a 91% approval rating (so far), term limits appear quite meritorious. YOUR ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS HAVE VALUE, AND I WOULD LIKE TO SEE MANY OF THEM IMPLEMENTED.

      voter imposed term limits is my panacea

        lichau in reply to dmacleo. | August 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm

        When has that worked effectively? Yes, occasional a Lugar get caught napping and is picked off, but mostly the power of incumbency can overcome almost anything.

        Look at our current POTUS. He ride Air Force One to his fundraisers, Romney has to pay for his own ride. Obama didn’t invent the scam, but has raised it to an art form.

        Listened to an old newscast from the Ford admin. Ford was riding a private jet to a fundraiser.

          well its only been 2 years since people woke the hell up.
          its only been 2 yrs since voters shut the autopilot off.
          you cannot use the last few decades as a measurement anymore as we have repeatedly seen (over last 2 yrs) people woke up.
          and I will never back a law telling a person they can only vote for someone a certain # of times.

Much has been said on NPR about the challengers with many pointing out the “extremist” nature of the winning challengers (extreme to NPR audience is anyone who is comfortable using the word God and speaks lovingly about America).

What I have not heard anything about are the Democrat primary winners. What of them?

Are they more extreme than the candidates they unseat? Or are they more “blue dog” and therefore more likely to side with conservatives on spending and social issues?

Are the ultimate races to be more poloraized or just making the inevitible swing back to the right? The country’s been led by the Left of center so long that middle of the road seems like extreme right wing.

NC Mountain Girl | August 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm

California will be fun to watch. They really scrambled the boundaries of some Congressional districts plus they have the open system where the top two vote getters in the primary face each other in the general regardless of party affiliation. some incumbents are campaigning for the first time in years.

That voters have never been more anti-establishment than they are today is not exactly an obscure observation. The fastest growing party in America is the “unaffiliated independent” party. We are close to outnumbering “both” Democratic parties combined. The Democratic parties might as well merge because their socialism is probably soon going to be challenged by a new majority party.

That is why the “party over principles” dead-enders that still control “both” parties get more and more strident. Their corrupt shrinking worlds are fraying and they can feel the earth moving beneath their feet. Partisan logic has lost most of its traction among the majority of Americans. All they have left is fear-mongering and insults.

It’s just not a good time to be a noseholder in EITHER Democratic party these days.

What’s the “unaffiliated independent party” position on gun control, Fillie?

What’s the “unaffiliated independent party” position on abortion, Fillie?

How ’bout the “unaffiliated independent party” position “gay marriage”?

How about the “unaffiliated independent party” position on repealing the Bush tax cuts, like your buddies in the OWS movement insist on?

I’d like you to put up the platform of the “unaffiliated independent party”, please, ’cause I read extensively, and have not seen that.

Oh, and all their candidates running for office in 2012.

Who is this WE, you keep talking about? Because I’ve been an independent CONSERVATIVE for about two decades, and we DAMN sure don’t agree on much of anything.

Henry Hawkins | August 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Speaking of incumbent bums, take a look at what Obama said in Colorado today:

“I said, I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back. Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry.”

OK, I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t trying to throw this election.

    Ragspierre in reply to Henry Hawkins. | August 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    I look at the gutting of welfare’s work requirement, the 4x increase in 5 years in taxpayer transfers to illegal aliens, the vast expansion of Federal payments to households, and it all adds up to one thing.

    Cloward-Piven has been implemented, with the devastating admixture of crippling the productive capacity of the producers.

    We have a choice. “Forward” into that maw, or try to redeem our nation.

    heimdall in reply to Henry Hawkins. | August 9, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    He might have been speaking without TOTUS again. What will it take for him to be chained to that damn teleprompter? Every time he is away from it, he commits these unforced errors and lets his mask slip.

I’ve been pretty happy with the election results in Kansas, lots of losses in the left wings of both parties, many gains in the right wings. The funny part is what the KS Dem party has been saying (paraphrased) “Hey all you moderate Republicans who lost your primaries because you were too liberal, come over to the Democrat party and get *really* liberal, that will help.”