The 2012 campaign cycle proved to be a continuation of the trend toward non-competitiveness in the general election in congressional elections. At the same time a new trend emerged, of competitive primary contests. This was a trend furthered by the actions of the Campaign for Primary Accountability (CPA), both in Democratic and Republican primaries. In these primary contests, where incumbents face little strength in opposition in the general election, are where reformers have to place their bets. As Nate Silver detailed recently in the New York Times, Swing Districts are dwindling and landslide Districts are increasing:
I estimate that there are only 35 such Congressional districts remaining, barely a third of the total 20 years ago. Instead, the number of landslide districts -- those in which the presidential vote margin deviated by at least 20 percentage points from the national result -- has roughly doubled. In 1992, there were 123 such districts... Today, there are 242 of them.
There are many ideas of how to reform the system including ending gerrymandering, campaign finance regulation, term limits and others that all, in general, figure out some way to change the rules to change the outcome. But right now the way to change the outcome is to change the incumbent through a challenge in the primary.
According to Silver's research, there are now 117 landslide Democratic and 125 landslide Republican congressional districts, and another 39 strong Democratic and 66 strong Republican districts. CPA will be challenging these incumbents during the 2014 cycle:
Most members of the House now come from hyperpartisan districts where they face essentially no threat of losing their seat to the other party. Instead, primary challenges, especially for Republicans, may be the more serious risk.
In the 2014 cycle, Democratic activists are now talking about mounting serious primary challenges, especially in light of the perception that Obama has caved to the Republicans in the fiscal cliff negotiations:
The main difference is that in the Obama era, the Democratic establishment has been less influenced, or intimidated, by the left than the Republican establishment has been by the right. Liberals have not mounted sustained primary challenges to take out wayward incumbents the way conservatives have. And so, despite the misgivings, all but three Democratic senators voted for the compromise on Tuesday, giving Mr. Obama more room to operate than Mr. Boehner. But the wave of grievance from liberal activists, labor leaders and economists suggested that the uneasy truce between Mr. Obama and his base that held through the campaign season had expired now...
A Tea Party of the left? That would be welcome news. The Tea Party on the right is ready:
"We now have 85 members of the House who have shunned their noses at us," said Dustin Stockton, a Texas- and Nevada-based operative and the chief strategist of The Tea Party.net. "Our job now is to recruit and inspire and motivate people to run against those Republicans who did it."