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Will Al Franken Be the Favorite in 2014?

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Presuming Al Franken is eventually seated as the junior Senator from Minnesota sometime this year, the Republican Party will no doubt soon be gearing up to plan his political demise in 2014 - whether with Norm Coleman in a rematch or against another GOP opponent.

Of course, assessing the likelihood of Franken's reelection chances in 2014 before he is even sworn into office is more sport than science, and is dependent on innumerable unknown variables: How will Franken legislate? What will the political environment be like in six years? Will his opponent be able to raise enough funds? etc.

The fact that Franken appears to have won the narrowest U.S. Senate victory in Gopher State history would seem to make him all the more vulnerable a target in 2014.

While incumbents tend to have a significant advantage over their challengers in Congressional races generally, the history of Minnesota U.S. Senate elections is such that margin of victories are not a great predictor of future success.

Smart Politics studied subsequent election outcomes of Minnesota U.S. Senators elected by competitive margins (less than 10 points) and those by less competitive margins (more than 10 points).

As it turns out, there is virtually no difference in the re-election success rate of those who won narrowly and those who won by large margins six years prior.

Re-election Fate of Minnesota U.S. Senators by Margin of Victory, 1912-2008

Candidate
Won
Lost
Did not run**
Elected by less than 10 points
50%
20%
30%
Elected by more than 10 points*
45%
23%
32%

* Excludes DFLer Amy Klobuchar elected in 2006.
** Includes Senators who did not run, left office, or died during their term.

In the case of competitively decided races, such as is Franken's situation, 50 percent of Senators won re-election the following cycle (5 of 10 incumbents): Republican Thomas Schall by 1.0 points in 1924 (reelected in 1930), DFLer Eugene McCarthy by 6.3 points in 1958 (reelected in 1964), DFLer Walter Mondale by 8.7 in 1966 (reelected in 1972), Republican Dave Durenberger by 6.0 points in 1982 (reelected in 1988), and DFLer Paul Wellstone by 2.6 points in 1990 (reelected in 1996).

Only 2 out of 10 Senators (20 percent) who won close elections then turned around to lose their subsequent reelection bid - both of these being recent cases: Republican Rod Grams by 5.0 points in 1994 (losing in 2000) and Norm Coleman by 2.2 points in 2002 (losing to Franken in 2008, challenge pending).

Three Senators either did not run for reelection (DFLer Mark Dayton) or died in office (Scall in 1935 and Wellstone in 2002).

Those Senators who won elections by double-digits, however, did not fare any better in the following election cycle - in fact, they performed slightly worse. Only 45 percent of such incumbents won reelection (10 of 22), with five losing in the general election (23 percent), and 32 percent dying in office, vacating their seat for another post, or choosing not to run (7 total).

In short, if past is prologue (and all things being equal), should Franken prevail and choose to run in 2014, he would seem to have about a 67 percent chance of winning reelection, as 15 of 22 Senators have done before him.

Re-election Fate of Minnesota Senators Who Won Competitive Elections, 1912-2008

Year
Senator
MoV
Reelection outcome
2002
Norm Coleman
2.2
Lost in 2008 (pending challenge)
2000
Mark Dayton
5.5
Did not run
1996
Paul Wellstone
9.0
Died in office
1994
Rod Grams
5.0
Lost in 2000
1990
Paul Wellstone
2.6
Won in 1996
1982
Dave Durenberger
6.0
Won in 1988
1966
Walter Mondale
8.7
Won in 1972
1958
Eugene McCarthy
6.3
Won in 1964
1930
Thomas D. Schall
1.5
Died in office
1924
Thomas D. Schall
1.0
Won in 1930



Previous post: Franken's (Apparent) Victory Is 4th Weakest U.S. Senate Performance in DFL History
Next post: How Opposed Are Minnesotans To Tax Increases?

2 Comments


  • This is very enlightening - thank you, Eric.

  • Franken, though, has extremely high UNfavorable ratings for a non-incumbant. That will be a huge factor, and it will be interesting to see if he can re-invent himself over the next 6 years. One would presume that he won't be re-elected unless he is truly exceptional as a senator. Only time will tell.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

    Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

    Political Crumbs

    Six for Thirteen

    Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


    Seeing Red

    Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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