Promoted by Steven D.

I appreciate the opportunity to post here.  This will be the start of a series over the next 5 days on 2014.  I think what I am going to show here is unique – I think many are missing the dynamic at play in 2014.   Because this stuff isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I will promise to not bury the lead.  

Bottom line, the data on incumbents is rather amazing.  As the table below shows, the number of incumbents under 50 is unprecedented.  Candidates in what should be safe seats in places like Kansas and West Virginia and Oregon are under 50.  What does this mean?  In my opinion, it is a reflection of three things:

  1.  Disappointment with the economy, and a sense that neither party has a solution.
  2.  A sense that we will always be at War in the Middle East, and yet lack a real plan to get out.
  3.  A sense that government just doesn’t work, and that all politicians care about is winning.

In my view, the first of these is really critical.  I will show this in another post, but Obama by some measures should be doing better.  Job growth over the last 6 months has been good, unemployment claims are at near decades low and consumer sentiment has recovered. More on this later.

Let’s get to the data.  The table below shows every incumbent in Senate and Governor’s races since 1998.  The most incumbents under 50 at this point in any year was 2010.  THERE ARE MORE THAN TWICE AS MANY INCUMBENTS UNDER 50 NOW!

Does this mean these incumbents will lose? It depends. There was a time when pundits talked about the 50% rule: if a candidate was under 50% he was probably going to lose.  No one ever really studied this until Nate Silver, and I don’t think he has looked at it as it is presented in the table below.
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To understand this table you need to understand PVI.  PVI is basically a measure of how Republican or Democratic a state is.  If a state has a high PVI, it has a heavy partisan lean (think Vermont for Democrats and Utah for Republicans).  The intuition is that a Republican incumbent under 50 in a deep red state will probably win, but one in a Democratic State will lose.  As the table below shows, this is exactly what we find:
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The table doesn’t make one optimistic about the Senate.  In fact, this was always going to be a tough one.  Here is a history of the number of Democratic Seats for this class of Senate seats:

1996 15 seats
2002 14 Seats
2008 12 Seats
2014 21 seats

Democrats typically win about 12 -15 seats of the ones up in 2014.  So the GOP SHOULD pick up a number of seats.  That they have not nailed down many of these seats actually tells you something about how badly damaged the GOP brand is.