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Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform

The Politics of Congressional Elections Across Time

Jamie L. Carson

Publication Year: 2013

In Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform, Jamie L. Carson and Jason M. Roberts present an original study of U.S. congressional elections and electoral institutions for 1872-1944 from a contemporary political science perspective. Using data on late

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Legislative Politics and Policy Making


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-10

List of Figures

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pp. x-xii


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pp. xiii-xvi

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-12

By almost any measure, the congressional elections of 1874 were disastrous for the Republican Party. While incumbent legislators of the president's party are often evaluated unfavorably during midterm elections, 1874 was a particularly devastating year for Republicans.1 The party lost 96 seats and majority status in the House of Representatives for the rst time since the end of the Civil War. After opening the 43rd (1873{1875) Congress with a healthy 203 to 88 seat margin over...

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2. History of U.S. House Elections

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pp. 13-26

During the past ve decades, much has been written about congressional elections in the post{World War II era, and the general patterns of election outcomes are clear and well-known by scholars. For instance, contemporary House elections produce relatively little turnover from one election cycle to the next and a dearth of competitive races in any given year. Even in more volatile recent elections such as 1994, 2006, and 2010 when control of the House chamber reverted to the other party, upwards of 90 percent of incumbents retained their seats. Incumbents...

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3. Institutional Change and Candidate Behavior

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pp. 27-55

Congressional elections were very di erent a airs in the late nineteenth century than they would be in the early 1900s or in the years imme- diately preceding World War II. The late nineteenth century was the pinnacle of partisan control of congressional elections (Brady, Buckley, and Rivers 1999a). Party machines exercised enormous control over nearly every aspect of the nomination and ballot process from the selection of candidates to stand for each office to the printing and...

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4. Exploring Historic and Modern Election Trends

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pp. 56-81

One of the biggest challenges to testing modern theories in any historical context is the difficulty of finding the necessary data to systematically evaluate the theories of interest. Until fairly recently, such historical tests were impractical due to a lack of readily available data, the labor-intensive nature of the data collection process, and the resources required to undertake such an endeavor. Recent developments in...

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5. The Politics of Candidate Emergence

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pp. 82-115

The stock market crash in October 1929 precipitated the worst economic downturn in the history of the United States. Herbert Hoover, the incumbent Republican president, bore the brunt of the voters' dissatisfaction with the Great Depression in the 1932 presidential election. The Democratic candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, soundly defeated Hoover in the 1932 presidential election, carrying 42 of the 48 states and amassing more than 88 percent of the electoral votes at stake. At...

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6. The Incumbency Advantage in House Elections

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pp. 116-138

Warren G. Harding won one of the largest popular vote landslides in American history in the 1920 presidential election when he defeated James M. Cox with more than 60 percent of the popular vote. Following on his presidential coattails were 62 new Republicans elected to the House of Representatives, giving the Republicans a margin of 302-131 seats in that chamber. The subsequent election two years later, however, represented one of the largest turnarounds in electoral fortunes...

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7. Conclusions

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pp. 139-148

On November 3, 2010, the day after the historic midterm elections, President Obama described the electoral results as a "shellacking" and took responsibility for the signifi cant Democratic losses. In total, 52 Democratic incumbents were defeated in the U.S. House, making it the worst loss for a party at the midterm since 1938. In the wake of the overwhelming defeat for Democrats, some pundits posited that the results were a clear referendum on the Obama administration. After...


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pp. 149-156


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pp. 157-166


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pp. 167-171

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028955
E-ISBN-10: 0472028952
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472118649
Print-ISBN-10: 0472118641

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 20 figures, 12 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Legislative Politics and Policy Making