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Gubernatorial Incumbents Sail

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Last November, Democrats picked up 6 governorships, held all 13 seats with Democratic incumbents, and retained their one (and only) open seat. But the lesson from Election 2006 is not so much a story of democratic dominance in the fight for the governor's mansion as it is the power of incumbency—Republican incumbents also won 12 of 13 races (92 percent).

Since 1998 there have been 129 gubernatorial elections in the United States. Incumbents have successfully defended 68 of 79 races (86 percent). The success rate of Republican incumbents (41 of 48, 85 percent) is virtually identical to that of Democratic incumbents (27 or 31, 87 percent).

When parties lose control of the governor's mansion, it is usually when there is an open race. In fact, party control has shifted in more than half of the open seat gubernatorial races since 1998 (25 of 48, 52 percent). Democrats (9 of 18, 50 percent) and Republicans 14 of 30, 47 percent) fare about equally well in finding a fellow party member to replace their outgoing state executive.

It is true, of course, that unpopular governors sometimes avoid defeat by not running (e.g. Bob Taft of Ohio in 2006), thus boosting the success rate of incumbents listed above. But that's not always the case—Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) is currently boasting an approval rating in the low 30s, and has launched his re-election bid for this fall's race in Kentucky.

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Remains of the Data

Is There a Presidential Drag On Gubernatorial Elections?

Only five of the 20 presidents to serve since 1900 have seen their party win a majority of gubernatorial elections during their administrations, and only one since JFK.

Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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