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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 3, 2011

The Electoral Risks of Senate Majority Leadership, or How Tom Daschle Lost and Harry Reid Won

Andrea C. Hatcher
From the journal The Forum

Senate majority leaders risk electoral defeat despite advantages of incumbency. In 2010, according to conventional wisdom, Harry Reid seemed likely to lose re-election, as had his predecessor. Nevertheless, he won a decisive victory. This paper seeks to answer the basic question—how did Reid escape electoral defeat?—as a means of elucidating the conditions under which Senate majority leaders lose re-elections. This research can be couched in a broader study of Senate majority leadership that understands the role as one that balances the constraints of multiple constituencies of state, party, Senate, and president. In these terms, and based on the cases of Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, I hypothesize that Reid’s electoral victory was no surprise in light of his state’s ideological position and support of President Barack Obama. As a rule, a Senate majority leader faces an electoral threat when he opposes a president that his state has supported, but gains electoral security when he serves a president his state has supported.

Published Online: 2011-1-3

©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston

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