Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recruiting Quality Challengers

MSNBC is reporting that incumbent Democratic Senator, Jim Webb, will not be running for reelection.

For all the attention paid by the media to the Tea Party and the election of newcomers during the 2010 cycle, the candidates who have the best chance to win election to Congress are those with previous electoral office experience. And the best chance for a party to keep a seat is by running an incumbent, unless they are scandal-ridden or have serious health problems.

One sure bet is that quality challengers and incumbents pay close attention to shifts in the political winds affecting their election prospects. And one good way to gauge party prospects is by looking at the decisions made by quality challengers and incumbents to run or not.

Democrats had good years in 2006 and 2008, in part, because they congressional committees recruited excellent challengers who saw the prospects of the Democratic Party on the rise. In the same vein, a number of Democratic incumbents in the Senate and the House chose retirement in 2010 knowing the political winds where blowing fast in the other direction.

Congressman's Rehberg's decision to run against Jon Tester and today's announcement by Senator Webb to return to the private sector are two indicators of each party's prospects going into the 2012 cycle. The Republicans have recruited perhaps the best possible challenger for Tester, and Democrats have lost their conservative incumbent in Virginia. Both states have moved in the red direction and represent excellent pick up opportunities for the Republicans. With the electoral math already stacked against them with so many Democratic incumbents up for reelection, both of these developments bode ill for Democratic prospects to retain the Senate.
Republican prospects, on the other side of the coin, look particular bright at this moment.

Watch closely the decision of incumbents and quality challengers in both parties. Good recruitment coups are signs that the party is doing well, while retirements suggest the opposite.

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