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History Gives Baldwin, Neumann Long Odds in Wisconsin US Senate Bids

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Only two of 15 ex- or sitting Badger State U.S. Representatives have run successful U.S. Senate campaigns; two more may go down in 2012

tammybaldwin10.jpgThe Wisconsin 2012 U.S. Senate race increasingly looks like a matchup between former four-term Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and seven-term U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin.

Thompson will have to earn his way to November's general election in a competitive four-candidate GOP field in next month's primary, though the state's longest serving governor has led by double digits in most polls conducted this year.

One of Thompson's opponents is former two-term U.S. Representative Mark Neumann, who previously sought and lost a senate bid in 1998 against Russ Feingold.

But Neumann is back for more, as is Congresswoman Baldwin - each of whom is trying to become just the third current or former U.S. House member from Wisconsin to win a U.S. Senate election in the last 100 years.

Many, many more have tried and failed.

In short, experience in D.C. is not a recipe for success when it comes to running for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.

A Smart Politics analysis of U.S. Senate election data finds that the historical odds are stacked against Tammy Baldwin and Mark Neumann in Wisconsin's 2012 U.S. Senate race with only two of 15 ex- or sitting Wisconsin U.S. Representatives winning a Senate seat since the introduction of direct elections for the office in 1914.

Since 1914, most U.S. Representatives from the Badger State have shied away from making the leap to the nation's upper legislative chamber.

A total of 92 individuals have been elected to the House from Wisconsin since direct election of U.S. Senators became law for the 1914 cycle.

Of these 92 U.S. Representatives, only 13 eventually launched a total of 15 U.S. Senate bids (excluding Baldwin and Neumann's 2012 runs).

Nine of these representatives lost in the primary (as Neumann is projected to do next month) while four others were defeated in the general election (as all polls suggest Baldwin will do, at least at this stage of the contest).

The only sitting U.S. Representative to win a Senate seat from Wisconsin in the direct election era is Republican Irvine Lenroot dating all the way back to 1918.

Lenroot was a five-term U.S. House member but was not at risk of forgoing his house seat when he launched his senate bid.

And that is because Lenroot won a special election on April 2, 1918 for the unexpired term ending March 3, 1921 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Democrat Paul Husting on October 21, 1917.

Had Lenroot lost the special election he would simply have sought another term in his 11th CD seat later that year.

Lenroot won the seat by just 3.6 points over Democrat John Davies with former socialist U.S. Representative Victor Berger winning 26.1 percent of the vote in a four-candidate field.

Berger was the first of 13 sitting or ex-U.S. Representatives to fail in their senate bids in the popular vote era.

The other failed candidacies include:

· 1938: Former 10-term Republican U.S. Representative William Stafford, who lost the U.S. Senate primary election to Alexander Wiley, placing third out of six candidates.

· 1938: Sitting 3-term Progressive Thomas Amlie who lost his party's primary to Herman Ekern.

· 1944: Sitting 1-term Democrat Howard McMurray who lost to Alexander Wiley in the general election by 7.8 points winning 42.8 percent of the vote.

· 1946: Former 1-term Democrat Howard McMurray lost his second consecutive general election, this time by 23.9 points to Republican Joe McCarthy with only 37.4 percent of the vote.

· 1950: Former 1-term Democrat (and Green Bay Packer) LaVern Dilweg lost the primary to Thomas Fairchild coming in last out of four candidates.

· 1956: Sitting 5-term Republican Glenn Davis who challenged Alexander Wiley for the GOP nomination but lost the primary, coming in second out of three candidates. After an eight-year hiatus Davis would return to the U.S. House to serve five more terms in the 1960s and 1970s.

· 1957: Three Republicans and one Democrat lost in the special election primary to fill Joseph McCarthy's seat after his death.

In the Democratic primary, five-term sitting U.S. Representative Clement Zablocki was defeated by William Proxmire.

In the GOP primary, eight-term sitting U.S. Representative Alvin O'Konski came in third in a seven-candidate field, losing to Walter Kohler. Also going down in defeat was former five-term GOPer Glenn Davis (coming in second) and former six-term U.S. House member John Schafer (finishing last).

· 1992: Sitting five-term Democrat Jim Moody lost the primary election to Russ Feingold, coming in second in a five-candidate field.

· 1998: Mark Neumann lost by 2.2 points to Russ Feingold in the general election, winning 48.4 percent of the vote.

The second and only other U.S. Representative to win a senate seat in the last 100 years is Republican Robert Kasten in 1980.

(Note: While legendary Wisconsin politician Robert La Follette had served three terms in the U.S. House in the 1880s, he had already served two terms in the U.S. Senate before the introduction of direct elections).

Kasten was a former two-term U.S. House member who ran a failed gubernatorial campaign two years prior in 1978 before unseating three-term Democrat Gaylord Nelson by 1.9 points with 50.2 percent of the vote and Ronald Reagan at the top of the ticket.

The Wisconsin U.S. Senate primary will be held on August 14th.

Wisconsin U.S. Representatives Running for U.S. Senate Since 1914

Year
U.S. Representative
Party
Result
2012
Tammy Baldwin
Democrat
???
2012
Mark Neumann
Republican
???
1998
Mark Neumann
Republican
Lost general
1992
Jim Moody
Democrat
Lost primary
1980
Robert Kasten
Republican
Won
1957 (s)
Clement Zablocki
Democrat
Lost primary
1957 (s)
Glenn Davis
Republican
Lost primary
1957 (s)
Alvin O'Konski
Republican
Lost primary
1957 (s)
John Schafer
Republican
Lost primary
1956
Glenn Davis
Republican
Lost primary
1950
LaVern Dilweg
Democrat
Lost primary
1946
Howard McMurray
Democrat
Lost general
1944
Howard McMurray
Democrat
Lost general
1938
Thomas Amlie
Progressive
Lost primary
1938
William Stafford
Republican
Lost primary
1918 (s)
Victor Berger
Socialist
Lost general
1918 (s)
Irvine Lenroot
Republican
Won
Note: Includes ex- or sitting U.S. House members. Table compiled by Smart Politics with information from Wisconsin Blue Books.

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