House incumbents usually have an advantage going into reelection campaigns, but this year Democrats could face a flurry of challengers from the left. This week in The Political Edge, we take a deeper dive into what the incumbency advantage might tell us about 2020 and look at a new forecast about how much money might be spent on political ads in 2020.
Will The Incumbency Advantage Save Democrats From A Growing List Of Primary Challenges?
In 2018, House Democrats faced a series of primary challenges. While most of the primaries failed, several races stuck out to observers – most notably 4th ranking Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley’s (D-NY) loss to freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As the 2020 cycle gets underway, several Democrats are already facing primary challenges. Among them is Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), a pro-life Democrat who will face off against Marie Newman again in 2020 after narrowly defeating her last year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already stated that they intend to defend incumbents and have promised to blacklist any organization that backs a primary challenge.
Given these developments, Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball analyzed historical data to get a sense of how successful primaries actually are and what kind of incumbency advantages current members have. Kondik writes,
“Since the end of World War II, there have been 37 elections for the U.S. House (one every two years). In those 37 elections, an average of 397 House incumbents sought reelection each election year. On average, only six House members failed to secure renomination each election year. In other words, more than 98% of all House members who have sought renomination in the post-World War II era have received it.”
Kondik goes on to point out that election years that end in “2” typically feature more turnover than other years because they happen following constitutionally mandated redistricting and thus incumbents are sometimes running against each other or in radically redrawn districts. According to Kondik’s analysis, “four of the last five House election cycles where the number of incumbent primary losers reached double digits were in years ending with 2.”
While it would appear that Democrats facing primary challenges next year will be relatively safe, Kondik acknowledges there seem to be more Democrats in danger. Some sitting Democrats that he points to as being particularly vulnerable are:
Jim Costa (D, CA-16), Stephen Lynch (D, MA-8), and Henry Cuellar (D, TX-28), also seem likely to face primary opposition because they are not particularly liberal.
In New York, several members could or will face primaries next year, according to The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher. They include Reps. Yvette Clarke (D, NY-9), Carolyn Maloney (D, NY-12), Jerrold Nadler (D, NY-10), Eliot Engel (D, NY-16), Gregory Meeks (D, NY-5), Tom Suozzi (D, NY-3) and Kathleen Rice (D, NY-4).
Lacy Clay (D, MO-1), Danny Davis (D, IL-7), and David Scott (D, GA-13) were all held under 60% last cycle and will face challenges in majority African-American districts.
Kondik: “Rep. Diana DeGette (D, CO-1), a long-serving Denver representative, attracted a strong primary opponent, former state House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D), who seemed to be angling for a Senate bid before surprising observers by opting for a safe-seat primary challenge.”
Kondik: “Top Democratic leaders in safe blue seats such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D, MD-5) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D, MA-1) have announced or likely challengers. So too do swing district members like Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D, AZ-1) and Kurt Schrader (D, OR-5), as well as a rising star from a famous family, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D, MA-4).”
Predicting 2020 Ad Spending
Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published an article detailing a new forecast by WPP PLC’s ad-buying unit GroupM about political ad spending in 2020. By GroupM’s estimations, we can expect to see a significant increase over the last two election cycles:
Political ad spending will increase to $9.9 billion in 2020, up from $8.7 billion in 2018 and $6.3 billion in 2016.
According to GroupM, the growth between presidential campaign years is accelerating: Political ad spending rose by $2 billion between 2012 and 2016 and by $1.1 billion between 2008 and 2012.
The report notes that political spending in 2018 accounted for $2 billion, or 2%, of total digital ad spending in the U.S. In 2020, digital political ad spending will increase to about $2.8 billion, or 2.2% of total digital spending.