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Todd Akin Seeks to Complete the Republican Hat Trick

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Including GOPers Jim Talent (2002) and Roy Blunt (2010), just 5 Missouri U.S. House members have been elected to the Senate since 1914; nearly three times as many have failed

toddakin10.jpgTodd Akin's victory in one of the most competitive Missouri Republican U.S. Senate primaries in state history Tuesday clears a big historical hurdle for the six-term congressman in his attempt to pick off one of the most vulnerable Democratic seats this November.

Despite a poor track record in winning seats to the nation's upper legislative chamber throughout the 20th Century, ex- or sitting members of the U.S. House from the Show-Me State seem to have reversed that trend over the last decade.

A Smart Politics review of Missouri election data finds that only five ex- or sitting U.S. Representatives have been elected to the U.S. Senate since the state's first direct vote contest in 1914 among 19 such attempts.

Overall, 127 Missourians have been elected to the U.S. House since the introduction of popular vote U.S. Senate races nearly 100 years ago.

Ex-or sitting House members have sought senate seats 19 times from 1914 to 2010 with Todd Akin the 20th during this span.

Nine of these candidacies failed at the primary stage, one candidate died on primary day, four nominees lost the general election, and just five were elected to the chamber.

Two of the five successful candidates that claimed senate seats were sitting GOP U.S. Representatives in the last decade.

In 2002, four-term U.S. House member Jim Talent defeated (appointed) Democratic incumbent Jean Carnahan by 1.1 points with 49.8 percent of the vote.

Eight years later, seven-term GOP U.S. Representative Roy Blunt defeated Robin Carnahan by 13.6 points in an open-seat race.

Prior to Talent's victory, it had been over 50 years since the last time a sitting or former member of the House won a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri - with five failed attempts in between.

In 1950, former three-term Democratic congressman Thomas Hennings defeated one-term Republican incumbent Forrest Donnell by 7.3 points.

There had been a 10-year gap between Hennings' service in the House and running for Senate in 1950 when he secured his upset victory - serving as a circuit attorney for the City of St. Louis and a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve during World War II in between.

The first member of the House of Representatives to win a U.S. Senate seat in the direct vote era was Democrat Harry Hawes in 1926.

Hawes was in his third term in the nation's lower legislative chamber when he won a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Republican Selden Spencer - defeating appointed GOPer George Williams by 3.6 points.

Two years later, Republican Roscoe Patterson won an open seat race by 4.0 points over Democrat Charles Hay.

Patterson had served one term in the House six years prior.

Despite these success stories, nearly three times as many candidacies by sitting or former Missouri U.S. Representatives for the U.S. Senate have failed:

· In 1914, former one-term Republican Politte Elvins lost his party's primary with 36.5 percent of the vote in a two-candidate field.

· In 1916, former one-term Republican Nathan Frank (pictured) lost the GOP primary with 19.0 percent, finishing last out of three candidates. Frank had been out of congress for 26 years.

· In 1928, former one-term Republican Wiliam Atkeson finished fifth out of six candidates in the GOP primary with just 4.7 percent of the vote.

· In 1928, Nathan Frank came in second in that same primary, with 28.0 percent of the vote - now 38 years removed from his one term in congress.

· In 1932, former one-term Republican Dewey Short lost his party's primary with 21.0 percent in a second-place finish out of six candidates.

· In 1934, sitting five-term U.S. Representative John Cochran placed second in the Democratic primary out of four candidates with 35.4 percent of the vote.

· In 1934, sitting seven-term Democrat Jacob Miligan ran a distant third in that same primary with 22.1 percent.

· In 1938, former one-term Republican U.S. House member Henry Caulfield lost his general election matchup by 21.5 points against one-term Democratic incumbent Joel Clark. Caulfield last served in the House 30 years prior.

· In 1946, former one-term Republican William Elmer lost the GOP primary by 13.3 points finishing third out of five candidates.

· In 1968, sitting nine-term Republican Thomas Curtis lost the general election by 2.0 points to Thomas Eagleton.

· In 1974, Curtis, now a former nine-term member of congress, lost his second consecutive U.S. Senate general election race to Eagleton - this time by a decisive 20.8 points.

· In 1976, sitting four-term Democrat James Symington lost his party's primary with 25.2 percent of the vote, finishing third out of 10 candidates.

· In 1976, sitting two-term Democrat Jerry Litton won that same primary with 45.4 percent of the vote, but died in a plane crash on primary day.

· In 1994, sitting six-term Democrat Alan Wheat was crushed by 24.0 points in his general election matchup against John Ashcroft.

Despite this overall bleak history for members of the U.S. House seeking higher office, Akin's biggest challenge was perhaps winning Tuesday's Republican primary - the only U.S. Senate primary in party history in which three candidates netted at least 29 percent of the vote with Akin at 36.0 percent, John Brunner at 30.0 percent, and Sarah Steelman at 29.2 percent.

For once such members of congress have made it to the general election ballot, success on Election Day has been slightly better than a coin flip: five of the nine Missouri U.S. Representatives who made it to the general election won their U.S. Senate race.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

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).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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