Did the Losses of Tea Party Candidates in 2014 Republican Primaries Lead to Different Results Than the 2010 Election?


Quick Answer

The primary election losses of Tea Party candidates definitely helped Republicans achieve better election results in 2014 than in 2010. This was mainly due to Republican incumbents in both the House and Senate surviving primary challenges from the far right.

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Full Answer

Once an incumbent survives a primary challenge, the odds of winning a general election are extremely high due to wide name recognition and the amount of funds accumulated. Since 1964, over 80% of House incumbents have won re-election every single year. The same is largely true for Senate incumbents. Since 1982, there has only been one year (1986) in which less than 80% of incumbents were re-elected.

With almost all Republican incumbents winning their primary races, Republicans were able to more actively go on the offensive in their pursuit of both open seats and the seats of vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Both the Republican party and outside groups spent large sums of money in a few "toss-up" races, only one of which featured a Republican incumbent: Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, who had amassed a large war chest of his own. In contrast, Democrats were forced to defend across the country, resulting in less resources being available to each candidate. The result was the Republicans being elected to a majority to both houses of Congress.

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