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What Are the Odds of Incumbents Winning All 8 of Minnesota's U.S. House Races in 2010?

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This report is Part 4 in a series on the incumbency advantage in Minnesota politics.

In the third part of Smart Politics' analysis of the incumbency advantage in Minnesota's U.S. House contests, it was revealed that, aside from a decade and a half span during the rise and fall of the state's three-party system in the 1930s and 1940s, Minnesota's incumbents have been reelected at virtually the same rate over the past 100 years.

The impressive 90+ percent rate at which incumbents have been reelected in Minnesota during most census periods over the past century, however, is assuredly not going to dissuade the DFL from angling for the seats of both freshman Erik Paulsen in the 3rd CD and, particularly, Michele Bachmann in the 6th CD.

The historical number-crunching, in addition to the current political environment, does point to a very difficult road for the DFL to pick up even one of these seats.

Earlier reports in this series explained, with regards to Paulsen, no freshman Congressman from Minnesota has been defeated in a general election matchup since 1948, and, with regards to Bachmann, it has been 65 years since the last time a 2-term Republican incumbent has been defeated in a non-redistricting year.

There has been no announcement to date that any of Minnesota's eight Representatives will be retiring in 2010 (e.g. Jim Oberstar) or seeking higher office (e.g. Tim Walz).

As such, in light of the high rate at which incumbents are reelected, Smart Politics conducted an analysis to investigate just how frequently all Minnesota's U.S. Representatives have won reelection in a clean "incumbency sweep" in the more than 75 general elections that have been held in Gopher State history.

As it turns out, taking the long view across Minnesota's 150-year history, the odds are better than average, but not strong.

To begin with, all of Minnesota's U.S. Representatives have appeared on the ballot for reelection bids in just 32 of the state's 76 general elections that have been conducted from 1859 through 2008, or a rate of 42 percent. (1859 was the first year 1857's inaugural Gopher State Representatives could go up for reelection).

That number has increased in recent years, with every member of Minnesota's U.S. House delegation running for reelection 8 times during the past 14 election cycles dating back to 1982 (60 percent).

Out of the 32 elections in which each of Minnesota's U.S. Representatives have appeared on the general election ballot, incumbents swept their contests in just 19 instances, or 59 percent of the time.

That means the "incumbency sweep" has occurred in just 25 percent (19 of 76) general elections since 1859.

However, the incumbency sweep became much more prevalent further into the 20th Century:

· U.S. House incumbents fared quite well in Minnesota's early years - sweeping into office in each of the first four times all incumbents appeared on the general election ballot: 1860, 1864, 1866, and 1872. However, the Gopher State was sparsely populated then, carved into only 2 U.S. House districts in 1862 and 3 districts in 1872 (Minnesota elected 2 at-large Representatives prior to 1862).

· Over the next 74 years, from 1874 through 1948, Minnesota's U.S. House delegation was only able to pull off the incumbency sweep in 3 of the 11 election cycles (27 percent) in which all Representatives were on the ballot - successfully accomplishing that feat in 1898, 1900, and 1930, but failing to do so in 1880, 1890, 1894, 1922, 1938, 1940, 1944, and 1948.

· Over the next 32 years, from 1950 through 1982, the incumbency sweep occurred in 6 of the 10 elections (60 percent) in which all Representatives were on the general election ballot: sweeping through 1950, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1968, and 1972, but losing one delegation member in 1954, 1960, 1966, and two members in 1982.

· Since 1984, however, incumbents have swept all 8 of Minnesota's congressional districts in six of the seven cycles (86 percent) in which they have all sought reelection. Incumbents swept through 1984, 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998 and 2004. In only one election did the House delegation fall short of a sweep - 2002, when DFLer Bill Luther was drawn into a new district (from the 6th to the 2nd, ultimately losing to John Kline).

2010 will be the last year of the current census period, with new district lines to be drawn before the 2012 election. In the eight times all U.S. Representatives have run for reelection in years ending in '0' the incumbents have swept through four cycles (1860, 1900, 1930, and 1950), while losing at least one member in four other cycles (1880, 1890, 1940, 1960).

Election Cycles with All of Minnesota's U.S. Representatives on the General Election Ballot

Year
Sweep
Representatives
Won
Lost
1860
Yes
2
2
0
1864
Yes
2
2
0
1866
Yes
2
2
0
1872
Yes
3
3
0
1880
No
3
2
1
1890
No
5
1
4
1894
No
7
4
3
1898
Yes
7
7
0
1900
Yes
7
7
0
1922
No
10
8
2
1930*
Yes
10
10
0
1938
No
9
5
4
1940
No
9
7
2
1944
No
9
7
2
1948
No
9
6
3
1950
Yes
9
9
0
1952
Yes
9
9
0
1954
No
9
8
1
1956
Yes
9
9
0
1960
No
9
8
1
1966
No
8
7
1
1968
Yes
8
8
0
1972
Yes
8
8
0
1982
No
8
6
2
1984
Yes
8
8
0
1986
Yes
8
8
0
1988
Yes
8
8
0
1996
Yes
8
8
0
1998
Yes
8
8
0
2002
No
8
7
1
2004
Yes
8
8
0
* Two incumbents in 1930 (William Nolan in the 5th CD and Paul J. Kvale in the 7th CD) were first elected in special elections in 1929. Data compled by Smart Politics.

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Previous post: Are Minnesota's U.S. House Seats Safer for Incumbents Today Than in the Past?
Next post: Minnesota Crime Rate Falls to Lowest Level Since the Moon Landing

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Remains of the Data

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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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