Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Will Al Franken Be the Favorite in 2014?

Bookmark and Share

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

    Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

    Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

    Political Crumbs

    Haugh to Reach New Heights

    The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting