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John Dingell Escapes with Narrowest Victory of Congressional Career

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Democratic Congressman from Michigan not immune from GOP surges during the Republican waves of 1966, 1994, and 2010

Democratic U.S. Representative John Dingell (MI-15) will return to Washington, D.C. for a 29th term, but he is doing so with the narrowest victory of his congressional career.

The longest current serving member of Congress, Dingell defeated Republican Rob Steele by 16.7 points, with the GOP challenger being the first to ever reach the 40 percent mark against the legendary Democratic congressman from southeastern Michigan.

It was the worst performance at the ballot box in Dingell's career and just the second time that he had been held under the 60 percent mark.

The final margin on Tuesday was 56.8 percent for the Congressman and 40.1 percent for Steele.

Not surprisingly, the two previous most competitive races Dingell had faced during his 55 years in Congress took place during the Republican waves of 1966 and 1994, when dozens of seats were picked up by the GOP in each of those cycles. Republicans are currently slated to net at least five dozen seats in 2010.

In 1994, Dingell defeated Republican Ken Larkin by a 19.3-point margin, with Larkin holding Dingell to 59.1 percent - the only other time the Congressman has failed to eclipse 60 percent.

In 1966, Dingell won his seventh term over John Dempsey by 25.4 points in an election cycle in which Republicans notched a 47-seat gain - the third closest race of his political career.

Prior to Tuesday night, Dingell had carried his 15th (and previously 16th) district by an average margin of victory of 48.2 points over the previous 28 cycles - or nearly three times the margin of his win over Steele.

The 56.8 percent won by Dingell in 2010 is approximately 23 percent less (16.5 points) than the 73.3 average percentage of the vote he received during the last 28 elections.

Dingell had won more than 70 percent of the vote in 19 elections - including each contest since 2000.

But in the end, despite chatter of a potential upset in 2010, Dingell prevailed once again against Steele and candidates from the Libertarian, Green, and U.S. Taxpayers (Constitution) parties.

Since Dingell's first victory in the special election of 1955 to fill his father's seat after his death, he has defeated a total of 75 challengers: 27 Republicans, 13 Libertarians, and five candidates from the U.S. Taxpayers, American Independent, and Socialist Workers parties, four from the Natural Law Party, three from the Green, Socialist Labor, and Prohibition parties, two from the U.S. Labor party, and five other independent or third party candidates.

John Dingell Margin of Victory in U.S. House Races, 1955-2010

Year
District
Dingell
GOP
3rd
MoV
2010
15
56.8
40.1
3.1
16.7
2008
15
70.7
25.0
4.3
45.7
2006
15
88.0
0.0
12.0
83.9
2004
15
70.9
26.6
2.5
44.3
2002
15
72.2
25.7
2.1
46.5
2000
16
71.0
26.5
2.5
44.5
1998
16
66.6
31.0
2.4
35.6
1996
16
62.0
35.7
2.3
26.3
1994
16
59.1
39.8
1.1
19.3
1992
16
65.1
31.4
3.5
33.7
1990
16
66.6
31.9
1.5
34.7
1988
16
97.4
0.0
2.6
97.4
1986
16
77.8
22.2
0.0
55.6
1984
16
63.7
35.7
0.5
28.0
1982
16
73.7
25.3
1.0
48.4
1980
16
69.9
28.2
1.9
41.7
1978
16
76.5
22.0
1.5
54.5
1976
16
75.9
22.7
1.4
53.2
1974
16
77.7
20.5
1.8
57.2
1972
16
68.1
29.8
2.1
38.3
1970
16
79.1
20.9
0.0
58.2
1968
16
73.9
25.9
0.2
48.0
1966
16
62.7
37.3
0.0
25.4
1964
16
73.4
26.5
0.1
46.9
1962
15
83.0
17.0
0.0
66.0
1960
15
79.4
20.3
0.3
59.1
1958
15
78.5
21.2
0.3
57.3
1956
15
74.1
25.8
0.1
48.3
1955
15
76.1
23.6
0.3
52.5
Average
72.8
25.5
1.7
47.1
Table compiled by Smart Politics with data culled from the Office of the Clerk of U.S. House of Representatives.

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