Runoff Could Spell Trouble for Lincoln

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am

The fact that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) appears to be headed for a runoff doesn’t bode well for the incumbent’s re-election odds, according to history.

I consulted University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock, who co-wrote the definitive book on the subject, to confirm his study of runoff elections. Overall, whoever places first in a primary wins the runoff 71.8 percent of the time. (So far, looking good for Lincoln.) Things are even better for a Senate primary specifically — the Senate primary leader wins the runoff about 77 percent of the time. (Lt. Gov. Bill Halter beware.)

Not so fast. The odds of winning drop significantly when an incumbent is involved. If the incumbent is the leader in a primary race, he or she wins just 55 percent of the time. The premise behind this is if a voter is willing to vote against the incumbent once, the voter’s more likely to do it again in the runoff.

But that 55 percent applies to all primary races — and last night’s vote was a particularly close one. In an email, Bullock wrote that there are two factors important in the outcome of a runoff: the primary leader’s margin and whether the race is for statewide office. As of this morning, it appeared that Lincoln’s lead was two percentage points or less. The fact that it’s a statewide race means her prospects are even dimmer. So her chances are, by historical standards, likely considerably lower than 55 percent.

To sum it up, “things do not look good for Sen. Lincoln,” Bullock wrote in an email.

Follow Rachel Rose Hartman on Twitter


Comments

11 Comments

strangely_enough
Comment posted May 19, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

So, does this mean FinReg legislation has to wait for the run-off before Lincoln's amendment can be stripped? That seemed to be how the script was playing out.


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Pingback posted May 20, 2010 @ 8:29 am

[...] The Washington Independent spoke to Charles Bullock, co-author of Runoff Elections in the United States, who notes the leader in a Senate primary wins the runoff about 77% of the time. [...]


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Pingback posted May 20, 2010 @ 10:32 am

[...] to runoff experts, the odds of winning drop significantly when an incumbent is involved. According to Charles Bullock, co-author of “Runoff Elections in the United States,” “the [...]


AR-Sen: Runoff spells trouble for Lincoln | Second Reagan Revolution
Pingback posted May 20, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

[...] historical trends from the Washington Independent: I consulted University of Georgia political scientist Charles [...]


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Pingback posted May 20, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

[...] historical trends from the Washington Independent: I consulted University of Georgia political scientist Charles [...]


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Pingback posted May 20, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

[...] historical trends from the Washington Independent: I consulted University of Georgia political scientist Charles [...]


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Pingback posted June 1, 2010 @ 4:05 am

[...] to garner the majority necessary to win outright and avoid a runoff. History suggests Lincoln may have a tough runoff fight ahead. Even if she wins her party’s nomination, current polling shows that the general election [...]


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Comment posted December 31, 2010 @ 12:10 am

Love the post and it took me a long time to scroll down to the bottom with what everyone had to say.


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Comment posted December 31, 2010 @ 12:11 am

Love the post and it took me a long time to scroll down to the bottom with what everyone had to say.


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