Here’s what we’ve learned from the U.S. congressional primaries so far

Tue, 2018-06-05

The Washington Post | by Robert Boatright 

This year’s congressional primaries looked to be tumultuous for both parties. Democrats are fielding three times as many candidates as they had in 2016. Republican incumbents, meanwhile, were worried that they’d face primary challengers if they antagonized President Trump’s supporters.

Slightly less than one-third of the incumbents seeking reelection have now had their primaries, or 125 out of 381. Unless the national mood changes radically over the next months, we’ve now seen enough primaries to get a sense of how the remaining primaries will play out. And that tells us a lot about the coming general election.

Let me explain.

For the past 50 years, tumultuous general elections have been preceded by high numbers of primary challenges to centrist officeholders

While the primaries in which a number of candidates compete to challenge the other party’s incumbent — a pack of Democrats, say, competing to run against a Republican member of Congress — are quite interesting, here I’ll be looking only at primaries in which an incumbent House representative fights a serious challenge from someone else in his or her own party.