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What Would an Anti-Incumbent Climate Look Like?

By Matthew Yglesias  

"What Would an Anti-Incumbent Climate Look Like?"

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John Sides observes “I would be very surprised if any ‘anti-incumbent fervor’ put much dent in the extraordinarily high rates at which incumbents are reelected.”

True enough. There’s something inherently odd about the concept of an anti-incumbent wave in a country wherein the overwhelming majority of incumbents are invariably elected. In the 2008, for example, 23 House incumbents were defeated in an unusually eventful election. A year in which “only” 75 percent of incumbents running for re-election were successful result in a shockingly large amount of change in the House. Indeed, I think everyone regards such a scenario as wildly unrealistic. And yet it would be hard to describe a universe in which 75 percent of incumbents are re-elected as all that gripped by anti-incumbent sentiment.

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