3 Fmr. GOP Reps. Look to Reclaim Seats; A Bad Thing or a Good Thing?

In recent days, we've learned that two recently defeated Republican Congressmen -- Jim Ryun of Kansas, who was defeated by Democrat Nancy Boyda, and Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire, who was defeated by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter -- are strongly considering running for their old seats. Richard Pombo, who appears headed for a job on K Street following his defeat at the hands of Jerry McNerney in California in November, is also said to be looking at an attempt to win back his seat in Congress.

With such big names in the mix, Republicans should be able to win back those three House seats next November, right? Not necessarily. The folks at The Hotline have gone back and crunched the numbers, and apparently rematches in Congressional elections seldom go the other way the second time around.

To date, at least three ousted House GOPers are pondering comebacks (Ryun, Bradley and Pombo). A word of warning to those seeking another try, since The Hotline began tracking House rematches ('98), there are have been nearly 200 House rematches, with just 10 (six last cycle) being successful. For complete lists of cycle-by-cycle rematches, click the corresponding year: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006.

Common wisdom might hold that no one could ask for more than a well established candidate with a firm fundraising network, a history of winning elections and high name recognition from their candidate -- all of which a former Congressman would bring to the table -- but The Hotline folks correctly note that by running ousted members of Congress all around the country Republicans run the very real risk of making 2008 not a referendum on the achievements and voting records of freshmen members in competitive or even GOP-leaning districts but rather a choice between two candidates. Even worse, such rematches could even become referendums on the defeated members, making it even more difficult for the Republicans to win back seats they might otherwise have a chance at recapturing.

This, of course, is not a hard and fast science. As mentioned in the quoted section above, Democrats were able to win six rematches last cycle. But in the previous four cycles, just four other retread candidates were able to win on their second go, at least one of whom -- Republican Mike Sodrel -- lost two years later, the third time he went up head-to-head against Democrat Baron Hill. So perhaps we need not excessively worry about rematches involving Reps. Boyda, Shea-Porter and others, after all.

Tags: House 2008, Republicans (all tags)



You can't run on change...

If you lose as an incumbent your can't run on change in the rematch. It takes away one of your best issues as a challenger. And I would guess low information voters break hard against the defeated incumbent seeking a second chance. Most probably figure there must have been a reason the old pol was voted out in the first place and keep the new person in place.

by joejoejoe 2007-01-30 10:45AM | 0 recs
Don't worry your pretty little head
We only beat the odds because 2006 was an odds-beating year.
by jallen 2007-01-30 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't worry your pretty little head
Oh, and because we worked our asses off.
by jallen 2007-01-30 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: 3 Fmr. GOP Reps. Look to Reclaim Seats; A Bad

As I can't access the links, I'm wondering if any of those 10 wins involved redistricting which made the loser more competitive?  I'm guessing a few...

by peaceprogress 2007-01-30 10:51AM | 0 recs
Don't forget the pork

Of course, taking back those seats would require voters to throw out Congressmen in the majority party in favor of Republicans.

I assume the freshmen will bring home enough pork to make the ramifications of that obvious.

-- Tentakles

by tentakles 2007-01-30 11:07AM | 0 recs
a question

If there are two hundred rematches, I'd guess it is mostly failed challengers trying again.  How many Congressmen voted out succeed in returning in a rematch?

by John DE 2007-01-30 11:20AM | 0 recs
It happens

Ted Strickland and David Price were ousted in 1994, and returned in 1996.

Baron Hill was ousted in 2004, came back in 2006.

Strickland, by the way, is the KING of rematches. Guy ran for the 6th district seat in 1978, against Bill Harsha. He lost. Ran against Harsha in 1980. Lost again.

Harsha retired in 1982. Strickland ran, got beat by Bob McEwen.

Ten years later, McEwen got caught up in the House Banking Scandal. It was 1992, someone got ahold of Ted Strickland's phone number. He won on his fourth try.

Then, due to the GOP landslide, he promptly got ousted by Frank Cremeans.

Undaunted, he returned in 1996 and beat Cremeans, and stayed in the seat until 2006, when he was elected Governor of Ohio.

Now that is a PERSISTENT son of a gun.

by brownsox 2007-01-30 12:28PM | 0 recs
Another interesting case...

Democratic Rep. Scotty Baesler of Kentucky beat Ernie Fletcher, defending his seat in 1996.

Baesler ran for the Senate in 1998, and very nearly won losing by half a point to Jim Bunning.

Fletcher replaced Baesler in the House. Oddly enough, righty whacko Bunning was also replaced by a member of the opposing party, Ken Lucas.

Baesler ran to get his old seat back in 2000, but thanks to McConnell-ordered negative campaigning, Fletcher beat him bad, by nearly 20 points.

In a final twist, Baesler's old seat is back in Democratic hands (Chandler), while Bunning's old seat is once again owned by a Republican (Geoff Davis).

by brownsox 2007-01-30 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: a question

Well, Baron Hill is one, off the top of my head.  

Another potential rematch is Rep. Patrick Murphy v. former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick in PA-08.

by Adam B 2007-01-30 12:29PM | 0 recs
A Minor Downer

Just looking at the numbers here: 10 successful rematches out of 200 total rematches = 10 incumbents beaten out of 200 total incumbents =5% successful rechallenge rate = 95% defense rate.

Looking at these numbers, rematches are low probability events, but except in wave years such as 1994 and 2006, any challenge to an incumbent is a low probability event of victory.  If I remember correctly, the recent rate of defense is roughly 98%.

So re-challengers have a more than double success rate than first time match-ups.  

by fester 2007-01-30 11:52AM | 0 recs
I would check the percentage after wave elections

Rematches from '98 forth aren't entirely relevant, since no wave years were included.

The dynamic of a wave year is results that otherwise would not have happened, so IMO it's much more '08 useful  to go back to previous wave cycles and check how the rematches fared two years later. There have already been posts in this thread highlighting reversals in '96.

Actually, I'm not sure '94 to '96 is the ideal example, either, since many of those districts were ones with GOP partisan index following the '90 redistricting, but Republicans had failed to capture in '92 due to Bush 41's weakness. Many wave years in the sample, going back a few decades, should provide a better hint. I would guess more defeated incumbents try again two years later after wave-cycle defeats.

by Gary Kilbride 2007-01-30 01:53PM | 0 recs

Can I have John Sweeney run again please????

I'd love to kick his ass a second time around!

by Andrew C White 2007-01-30 02:49PM | 0 recs
No need to worry

I read an article in the NYT shortly after the elections about the Dems giving more responsibility and higher visibility to the freshmen, especially the ones in swing districts.  I think this combined with the usual pork will work in their favor.  I also think that Bush's dismal approval ratings will still be there in 2008 and thus a reminder to the voters of their original reason for getting rid of the former incumbent rubber stampers. Unless they have something new to offer or we have a Foleygate of our own, the former GOPers will have to get a job.

by Kingstongirl 2007-01-30 05:54PM | 0 recs


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