05/19/2011 05:56 pm ET Updated Jul 19, 2011

Let's Start Hyping "Anti-Incumbent Rage" Again!

During the run-up to the 2010 election, people who regularly consumed political punditry were told frequently to expect a wave of anti-incumbent fury to sweep across the land. That would have been remarkable, since the House of Representatives hasn't had an "anti-incumbent" year in my lifetime. The Senate, on the other hand, has felt some waves -- back in 1980, the re-election rate for incumbents hit a 40-year low of 55%. Still, since then, incumbents have been successful 75% of the time.

Now, Gallup is back, hyping the re-emergence of anti-incumbent fury:

The anti-incumbent mood that led to sweeping changes in Congress after the 2010 elections persists, and the accompanying change in House leadership has not fundamentally altered the way Americans view Congress. Thus, incumbents remain vulnerable heading into the 2012 election cycle, though perhaps not quite as vulnerable as in 2010, given that voters are now more inclined to say their own member deserves re-election.

So, incumbents are vulnerable, but "not quite as vulnerable as in 2010?" That basically means incumbents are not vulnerable.

For a review, let's turn to Doug Mataconis, who also didn't think much of the anti-incumbent hype, said so, and then found his prediction to be not far off the mark.

In the House of Representatives, 87% of the incumbents who stood for election were re-elected. This is slightly below the historical trend over the last several decades, and lower than the re-election rate in 1994, 2006, and 2008 [...]

In the Senate, and assuming Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid is successful [ed.: And it was!], 84% of the incumbents who stood for re-election were successful... Again, this is fairly consistent with the historical rate over the past forty years or so.

Sure, that 87% figure for House incumbents was the lowest it's been since 1970, but that's still an 87% rate of success. So I don't know why anyone kids themselves with this "anti-incumbent rage" nonsense. The numbers tell us that incumbency remains a pretty good racket, and if 2010 is the best the "anti-incumbent ragers" can do, I've got to tell them -- they don't impress me much.

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