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The Longest Republican US Senate Droughts in the Nation

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It has been a combined 141 years since the GOP won a U.S. Senate race in West Virginia (1956), Hawaii (1970), and New Jersey (1972)

republicanparty03.gifWith many Democratic retirements and the hope of the usual historical midterm bump for the party out of power in the White House, the Republican Party will make its fourth consecutive attempt to take back control of the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Expectations were high early in the last two cycles that the GOP would win the nation's upper legislative chamber but a combination of weak general election candidates and stronger than expected opponents have left the Republicans short of their goal.

In order for the Republican Party to win the six seats necessary to take outright control of the chamber, it is likely they will need to finally put an end to some of the longest droughts the GOP is currently facing.

A Smart Politics review of U.S. Senate election history finds that Republicans have failed to win a Senate seat in six states across a quarter century or more - led by West Virginia at 57 years and counting - and have not won a seat in 11 or more years in another dozen states.

Republicans currently hold at least one Senate seat in 31 states: Alabama (x2), Alaska, Arizona (x2), Arkansas, Florida, Georgia (x2), Idaho (x2), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas (x2), Kentucky (x2), Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi (x2), Missouri, Nebraska (x2), Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma (x2), Pennsylvania, South Carolina (x2), South Dakota, Tennessee (x2), Texas (x2), Utah (x2), Wisconsin, and Wyoming (x2).

Of the remaining 19 states where the GOP does not hold any seats, the party has had an electoral drought lasting between three (Massachusetts, 2010) and 57 years (West Virginia).

In West Virginia, Democrats are hoping to stave off a loss in the increasingly Republican state (in federal elections) in the wake of five-term Senator Jay Rockefeller's retirement.

A recent Smart Politics report found that the party of retiring five-term Senators has won 83 percent of the time across the country during the direct election era.

Republicans have lost 21 consecutive U.S. Senate contests in the Mountain State since W. Chapman Revercomb's 7.3-point special election victory in 1956 following the death of Democrat Harley Kilgore earlier that year.

In 1958, Revercomb became the first of eight consecutive Republicans to lose to Robert Byrd (with the party not fielding any candidate against Byrd in 1976).

(Note: In 1958, Republican John Hoblitzell was appointed to the Senate after the death of Democrat Matthew Neely, but lost in a special election later that year to Democrat Jennings Randolph).

Also on the ballot in 2014 will be a special election in Hawaii and an open seat race in New Jersey - two other states where Republicans have failed to win in 40+ years.

It has been 43 years since Republicans last won a Senate contest in Hawaii (Hiram Fong, 1970) - dropping 15 straight contests ever since.

The GOP has also lost 13 consecutive races in New Jersey since Clifford Case's victory in 1972. (Republican Nicholas Brady was appointed and served for a few months in 1982 after the resignation of convicted Democratic ABSCAM target Harrison Williams).

Frank Lautenberg's retirement creates an open seat race in the state next year.

Other states where Republicans have not won a Senate contest in at least a quarter century are:

· Maryland, 33 years, 11 contests (Charles Mathias, 1980).

· Connecticut, 31 years, 10 contests (Lowell Weicker, 1982).

· California, 25 years, 9 contests (Pete Wilson, 1988).

Rounding out the Top 10 longest Republican droughts are New York at 21 years and eight contests (Al D'Amato, 1992), Delaware at 19 years and seven elections (William Roth, 1994), and Michigan (Spencer Abraham, 1994) and Washington (Slade Gorton, 1994) at 19 years and six races each.

The recent announcement by Michigan's Carl Levin that he will retire at the end of his term in 2014 would seemingly put the Wolverine State in play for the GOP.

Republican droughts are expected to continue in 2014 in most of the remaining states in the table below where the GOP hasn't won in 10+ years.

Longest Current Republican U.S. Senate Electoral Droughts by State

Rank
State
Last GOP Senator to win
Elected
Years
# Losses
1
West Virginia*
W. Chapman Revercomb
1956
57
21
2
Hawaii
Hiram Fong
1970
43
15
3
New Jersey*
Clifford Case
1972
41
13
4
Maryland
Charles Mathias
1980
33
11
5
Connecticut
Lowell Weicker
1982
31
10
6
California*
Pete Wilson
1988
25
9
7
New York
Al D'Amato
1992
21
8
8
Delaware
William Roth
1994
19
7
8
Michigan
Spencer Abraham
1994
19
6
8
Washington
Slade Gorton
1994
19
6
11
Montana
Conrad Burns
2000
13
4
11
Rhode Island
Lincoln Chafee
2000
13
4
11
Vermont
Jim Jeffords
2000
13
4
14
Colorado
Wayne Allard
2002
11
3
14
Minnesota
Norm Coleman
2002
11
3
14
New Mexico
Pete Domenici
2002
11
3
14
Oregon
Gordon Smith
2002
11
3
14
Virginia
John Warner
2002
11
3
19
Maine
Susan Collins
2008
5
1
20
Massachusetts
Scott Brown
2010
3
1
20
Florida
Marco Rubio
2010
3
1
20
Indiana
Dan Coats
2010
3
1
20
Missouri
Kit Bond
2010
3
1
20
North Dakota
John Hoeven
2010
3
1
20
Ohio
Rob Portman
2010
3
1
20
Pennsylvania
Pat Toomey
2010
3
1
20
Wisconsin
Ron Johnson
2010
3
1
* Republicans were appointed to the Senate in these states during the drought, but never elected. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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Remains of the Data

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

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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