Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 30, 2018

The Trump Effect: Filing Deadlines and the Decision to Run in the 2016 Congressional Elections

Gavin Riley and Jacob Smith
From the journal The Forum


In this paper, we examine whether the nomination of Donald Trump for president affected decisions to run for Congress in 2016 in states with later filing deadlines. We theorize that the perception among potential candidates that Donald Trump would be a weak nominee had the potential to entice high-quality Democratic candidates (defined as those who have previously held an elective office) to run for Congress as it became increasingly clear that Donald Trump would be the Republican presidential nominee. We also examine an alternative hypothesis that the impending Trump nomination enhanced political amateurs’ perception they could win in 2016, enticing them to run for Congress. Using a novel dataset from PredictIt, we find support for the second hypothesis, with more political amateurs running as the Trump nomination became more likely. These findings suggest that Donald Trump’s nomination had important consequences that went beyond the presidential race.


Thank you to Jonathan Spiegler, Simon Hoellerbauer, Jason Roberts, Sarah Treul, anonymous reviewers, editors, and audience members at the 2017 Midwest Political Science Association conference for helpful suggestions on this paper and to PredictIt for sharing data from their market on the 2016 Republican nomination.


Banks, Jeffrey S., and D. Roderick Kiewiet. 1989. “Explaining Patterns of Candidate Competition in Congressional Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 33 (4): 997–1015.10.2307/2111118Search in Google Scholar

Barabak, Mark. 2016. “With New Hampshire result, Trump is a Serious Contender, and Kasich is Back in the Race.” Los Angeles Times. in Google Scholar

Black, Eric. 2010. “Bonoff Officially Not Running for Congress.” MinnPost. in Google Scholar

Canon, David. 1990. Actors, Amateurs, and Athletes: Political Amateurs in the United States Congress. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Carsey, Thomas M., and William Berry. 2014. “What’s a Losing Party to do? The Calculus of Contesting State Legislative Elections.” Public Choice 160 (1): 251–273.10.1007/s11127-013-0079-5Search in Google Scholar

Connelly Jr., William F., and John J. Pitney Jr. 1994. Congress’ Permanent Minority? Republicans in the U.S. House. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Search in Google Scholar

Fox, Richard, and Jennifer Lawless. 2011. “Gaining and Losing Interest in Running for Public Office: The Concept of Dynamic Political Ambition.” The Journal of Politics 73 (2): 443–462.10.1017/S0022381611000120Search in Google Scholar

Hensch, Mark. 2016. “Karl Rove: If Trump is nominee, GOP will lose White House and Senate.” The Hill. in Google Scholar

Jacobson, Gary. 1989. “Strategic Politicians and the Dynamics of U.S. House Elections, 1946–86.” American Political Science Review 83 (3): 773–793.10.2307/1962060Search in Google Scholar

Key Jr., V.O. 1964. Politics, Parties, and Pressure Groups. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co.Search in Google Scholar

Lee, Frances. 2016. Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226409184.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Maestas, Cherie, Sarah Fulton, L. Sandy Maisel, and Walter Stone. 2006. “When to Risk It? Institutions, Ambitions, and the Decision to Run for the U.S. House.” American Political Science Review 100 (2): 195–208.10.1017/S0003055406062101Search in Google Scholar

Maisel, L. Sandy. 1982. From Obscurity to Oblivion: Running in the Congressional Primary. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press.Search in Google Scholar

Pathé, Simone. 2016. “Democrats Land Colorado Recruit to Expand Playing Field.” Roll Call. in Google Scholar

Rohde, David. 1979. “Risk-Bearing and Progressive Ambition: The Case of Members of the United States House of Representatives.” American Journal of Political Science 23 (1): 1–26.10.2307/2110769Search in Google Scholar

Sherry, Allison, and Ricardo Lopez. 2016. “Sources: State Sen. Terri Bonoff to Challenge U.S. Rep. Erik Paulson.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune. in Google Scholar

Smith, Jacob. 2016. “How to Tell if 2016 is a Wave Election.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball. in Google Scholar

Thomsen, Danielle M. 2014. “Ideological Moderates Won’t Run: How Party Fit Matters for Partisan Polarization in Congress.” Journal of Politics 76 (3): 786–797.10.1017/S0022381614000243Search in Google Scholar

Waldman, Paul. 2016. “Could Donald Trump Deliver Congress to the Democrats?” The American Prospect. in Google Scholar

Wasserman, David. 2013. “Introducing the 2014 Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index.” Cook Political Report. in Google Scholar

Wolf, Stephen. 2017. “These 12 Democrats Hold Districts that Voted for Donald Trump.” Daily Kos Elections. in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2018-08-30

©2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow