Some vulnerable Democrats up in 2014, such as Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, might take comfort in the fact that only a half-dozen Senate incumbents have lost since the 1990s. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
A recent National Journal item caught my attention. Entitled “Expanding the Map,” it began: “When Republicans gloat about the seven Democratic-held, red-state Senate seats up in 2014, Democrats can note that only six of their incumbents have lost since the 1990s.”
The statement is true … but potentially misleading.
Yes, over the past seven elections, Republicans have defeated only six Democratic senators seeking re-election. But there are two reasons for that. First, political waves have favored Democrats more than Republicans over the past dozen years. And second, weak Republican candidates who emerged from ideological primaries failed to win very winnable races.
We have seen two Democratic wave elections in the past dozen years — in 2008 and 2006 — and only one Republican Senate wave, in 2010. But in reality, we had a third Democratic Senate wave — in 2000, when the relatively weak Republican Senate class elected in the 1994 wave came up for re-election for the first time. Five GOP incumbents lost that year, a large number considering that the presidential contest was a tie and the House results were a virtual wash. Full story