Despite the media narrative that it’s an “anti-incumbent” year, I predicted on Tuesday that more than 90% of incumbents would be reelected in the House. According to Politico.com, 390 incumbent House members ran for reelection this year and 51 were defeated. Thus, 86.9% of House incumbents won reelection. Looks like I was off by 3%.
Interestingly, the House incumbent reelection rate was predicted perfectly all the way back in June by political scientist John Sides.
How does this compare to historical trends? Since 1954, the average incumbent reelection rate in the House is 93%. So incumbents in 2010 did about 6% worse than average. And this is the lowest incumbent reelection rate since 86.6% in the 1964 congressional election.
Thus, from one perspective it could be argued that this was an “anti-incumbent” year in that more incumbents were defeated than is historically the case. However, it could also be argued that a nearly 9 in 10 incumbent reelection rate hardly constitutes a resounding “anti-incumbent” thrashing in Tuesday’s election.