Thursday, June 17, 2010

Anti-Incumbent Sentiment at Record High for Congress: Who is the Incumbent in CD2, Teague or Pearce?

A recent ABC-Washington Post poll shows that only 19 percent of an adult sample of Americans are inclined to vote for their incumbent member of Congress, and all-time low. For the past half century or so, over 90 percent of incumbent members of congress have been re-elected, sometimes going up to 98 percent.

This raises the question: Which candidate in CD2 will be perceived as the incumbent? Both candidates, Harry Teague and Steve Pearce, have held the seat. Teague, of course, is the current incumbent, but he only got elected less than two years ago, and Pearce may actually still be better known, since he served three terms.

You can bet Steve Pearce will label Teague the incumbent and knock him for his voting record and, to the extent President Obama's popularity continues to sink, for his association with Obama. But will Teague also have a chance to go over Pearce's voting record in Congress, when he tended strongly to vote with President Bush?

Which one of the two is a Washington insider? Both? Neither? The trick to winning this election for both candidates lies in being able to define oneself and the other candidate successfully. Right now it may look like Teague is dead meat, but the definitional game hasn't really begun yet and a well-crafted campaign that shows an understanding of the culture(s) of CD could turn things around. My own sense of it is that Pearce is at this time the default candidate, but he hasn't yet made the sale. This is one race that will not be won by the candidate who spends the most money. It will be the one that shows he understands the district better than the other.

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