Incumbents beware! The
loss of Republican Senator Bob Bennett
in his party's own
nominating convention on Saturday sent shockwaves through both
Democratic and Republican circles. While Democrats were presumed to face
significant anti-incumbent anger because of the economy and health-care reform, Bennett's
defeat--coupled with the ongoing problems facing former Republican presidential contender John McCain
even Republican incumbents are at risk from voter anger. With an eye
towards the midterm elections, political journalists say the political climate for incumbents of all
parties is deteriorating.
- TARP Funds Will Sink Incumbents At National Journal, Charlie
Cook traces Bennett's downfall to four letters that could afflict incumbents of all parties: TARP. "More than anything else,
Bennett became the first major victim of the Troubled Asset Relief
Program," argues Cook. "While it may have prevented us from falling into
a second, much more complicated Great Depression, it did enrage many
Americans who saw it as a dangerous governmental overreach and helped
launch the Tea Party movement. By any rational standard, Bennett is a
true conservative, just not enough of one in the minds of the delegates
to the Utah Republican convention for him to make the ballot. All of
Bennett's other problems, though, pale in comparison with TARP." While
Republicans are "very lucky that they don't have more House or Senate
incumbents who supported TARP facing competitive primaries this year,"
Cook can already see the stigma of the stimulus package severely
damaging the chances of other Republicans, including those as
heavily entrenched as John McCain. "Against this backdrop, Sen. John
McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, is fighting
for his political life, facing an aggressive challenge from former Rep.
J.D. Hayworth," writes Cook. "Given the hostile, anti-Washington
environment and particularly the rebellion over TARP, it's a wonder that
McCain is hanging on at all."
- Polls Predict Trouble MSNBC's First
Read team sees the harbingers of incumbent defeat in this week's
primaries: "Republican Bob Bennett’s defeat on Saturday might have been
only the start of what’s to come. Today and next Tuesday, there will be
primaries where we could see additional incumbents lose -- this time on
the Democratic side. ... What happens in these three
contests could very well establish a clear theme for this midterm cycle:
anti-incumbency (er, anti-WASHINGTON) -- on both sides."
- Incumbency Trumps All Politico's
Isenstadt compiled a list of incumbents "who should be looking over
their shoulders." The vulnerable made Isenstadt's list for a variety of
reasons: Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) for "ethics concerns and lingering
resentment over the Democratic push for climate change legislation in
coal-dependent West Virginia"; Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) for
"rank[ling] activists with his opposition to the health care reform
bill"; Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) for being "wobbly" on conservative issues; and
appointed Sen. Michael Bennett, who "suddenly finds himself in an
awkward position thanks to Colorado's byzantine Democratic Party
nominating process." While the majority of the at-risk incumbents are
Democrats, Isenstadt asserts that incumbents "are about to be seriously
tested by challengers from within their own parties."
- It's The Economy, Stupid Mike Lux at
analyzing the defeat of Bob Bennett and potential electoral pitfalls of
Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, concludes that partisan ire will only reinforce
the economic worries at the root of anti-incumbent anger :
Incumbents in both parties are in trouble for one
simple reason: the jobs aren't coming back and the perception among
voters is that the incumbents aren't doing anything about it. While
there are some encouraging signs on the economy, the official
unemployment rate went up to 9.9% last week... Most working families in this country are
still hurting, and are still scared there are more economic problems yet
to come. They don't think either party cares about them or is fighting
for them. As long as that is the case, incumbents of both parties are
going to keep getting into political trouble.
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