June 3rd, 2010
08:31 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Radio: Anti-incumbent wave far from being a flood

(CNN) – Despite all the calls for new blood in Washington and for Americans to dismiss "career politicians," thus far primary voters mostly have chosen established party insiders over farmers, businessmen and candidates from outside the political realm.

And far more incumbents have survived than have been toppled.

Listen: CNN Radio's Lisa Desjardins speaks to a young, political outsider


"The idea that there's this huge anti-incumbent wave in the election is considerably exaggerated," said Emory University political science professor Alan Abramowitz.

Abramowitz believes all four of the incumbents ousted so far are special cases, with two party switchers (Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, Rep. Parker Griffith in Alabama), one facing corruption charges (Rep. Alan Mollohan in West Virginia) and one losing at a closed-vote party convention (Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah).

And with just one exception - New Mexico congressional candidate Tom Mullins - the outright winners from Tuesday's House primaries in Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico were known political figures, backed by members of the establishment.

"We were up against an establishment candidate," said newcomer and businessman Joe Tegerdine, who lost 43 percent to 57 percent to state Rep. Steven Palazzo in Mississippi's 4th congressional district Republican primary.

"The machine driven by party leaders is much more pervasive and much more powerful than we thought," he told CNN Radio.

Regardless of whether an anti-incumbent movement erupts, so far there seems to be a buttressing of the traditional path to power, through party establishments and a political resume.

Perhaps the biggest underdog of the week, New Mexico's Cliff Pirtle, also suffered the greatest loss.

The 25-year-old farmer and first-time candidate lost by some 70 points to former three-term congressman (though not technically an incumbent) Steve Pearce in the state's 2nd district Republican primary.

Pirtle spent $2,200 of his own funds, compared with Pearce's estimated expenditures of about $200,000 on the primary.

"I wanted to go out and prove it didn't take a million dollars to run for Congress," Pirtle said, " but I think I learned the lesson that it does take quite a bit of resources, especially in a district this large to get the name out."

Pirtle acknowledges that Pearce is popular and well-known in the area.

Asked if he thought anyone who works paycheck to paycheck could win a seat in Congress within a few years of trying, the farmer responded, "I'm gonna say no."

He went on.

"It's real hard for regular run-of-the-mill small businessmen who still depend on their daily income to run for Congress."


Filed under: 2010 • Congress • New Mexico
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Dean

    Yep, the American voter is a strange animal. They disapprove of the job congress is doing but keep on voting for the same crooks.
    One day people will learn nthat if you want different results you yourself have to do something different.

    June 3, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  2. LacrosseMom (the real one)

    Polls........polls....... pundits..........pundits! BUT......... the most important poll is in NOvemeber when the Party of NO gets another strong message from America!

    June 3, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  3. phoenix86

    Pretty simple really. If you like the way Nancy Pelosi is running the government (and make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi IS running the government), then vote democrat.

    If you want change, then vote republican.

    June 3, 2010 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  4. jilli

    The anti-incumbent "wave" is as much of a rightwing contrived fantasy as is the influence of the tea baggers in the upcoming elections. Republicans will pay a higher price than the dems this election season.

    June 3, 2010 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  5. TTommy

    Abramowitz believes all four of the incumbents ousted so far are special cases, -------– Good stuff. Talk about denial.

    June 3, 2010 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  6. Carlos

    You fools just keep on thinking this, you will find out in November.

    June 3, 2010 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  7. Bob in PA

    It's called voter fraud.

    June 3, 2010 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  8. Donnatella

    I could of told them that, the party of NO is not impressing anybody but out of touch wing nuts, the rest of the country is sitting back watching, Sarah, Glenn, Rand, Limbaugh, Fox News, take the republican party to a dark and hateful place, we don't want the country going back in time, we want it to move forward, these far right haters are going to be in for a big surprise come November,they can't even run their own finances, so all that fiscal conservative crap is nothing but a talking point.

    June 3, 2010 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  9. Lib Hunter

    Absolutely correct. The actual wave is going to be the one the drowns all of the anti American Radical Libs (used to be known as the Democrat Party) in Congress who have blindly supported the Ditherer and Chief in the White House. I know outlets like CNN, PMSNBC, CBS, ABC, NY TIMES etc.. will do all they can to downplay the real truth, but after Novembers Bloddbath, Obama will become the earliest Lame Duck in the history of the Presidency. Count On It

    June 3, 2010 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  10. Layla

    We shall see! It's going to be a lively and interesting year.

    June 3, 2010 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    dream on Lisa

    June 3, 2010 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  12. FactCheck

    Oh you tea-partiers and your 10% of the electorate... just because you scream loudly (and often vulgarly) doesn't mean anyone else agrees with you.

    June 3, 2010 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  13. bill486

    Could it be that the voters have figured out that the Tea Party/Libertarian/Independent candidates are from a different universe(or century), which makes incumbents look a hell of a lot better?

    June 3, 2010 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  14. vegasguy

    What the GOP has misread in their campaign to oust those in congress is that the American people are fed up with the no action congress, because of the republicans voting no on everything. The American people expect and deserve the congress to be working for them, instead they got a congress who is only interested in stopping everything just to play political games and score points with there very vocal base. So what GOP doesn't seem to understand is that their vocal base, the Tea Baggers represent less than 20% of America, they're just loud. So when they hear that the American are not happy with congress they think they are not happy with the democrats. What we are really unhappy with is the constant no from the GOP, however, they will finally understand it in November when they loose seats instead of gaining them as they think they will. If the GOP continues to listen to and play to the Tea Bagger group it will be the end of the GOP.

    Vote NO in NOvember to the party of NO.

    June 3, 2010 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  15. dennis

    Blah, Blah, Blah, more CNN Democrat Propaganda articles. November is going to be a throw out the bums vote, and this lady doesn't have a clue what she is talking about. More BS from CNN.

    June 3, 2010 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  16. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Can't wait to bump my local Republican Congressman out of office...he's totally useless as are 90% of the rest of Republicans in Congress just blocking every single thing Obama tries to do.

    June 4, 2010 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  17. greg the progressive

    Rubio will Fail

    June 4, 2010 07:39 am at 7:39 am |