Appointing Walsh Does Increase His Odds of Winning

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David Parker, professor of political science at MSU, and Robert Saldin,  associate professor of political science at the University of Montana, have suggested over the past couple of days that appointing John Walsh to the Senate seat would not increase his chances of winning, citing a modest benefit in previous elections:

According to data compiled by Nate Silver and updated by us, of the 52 senators appointed to fill seats as of 2012, only 22 — or 42 percent — have been reelected.

A deeper look at the data, however, suggests that appointing Walsh will offer a significant boost to his candidacy, as recent appointees have done quite well in their subsequent elections.

In fact, since 1990, the beginning of the modern campaign era, appointed Senators have won their subsequent elections at a staggering 68.75% rate.

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Even more significantly, the last seven candidates appointed to the Senate who subsequently ran for re-election all won their elections. Republicans, Democrats, rural state Senators, urban state Senators all have won after appointment. 

Parker and Saldin might have aggregate numbers correct, but their interpretation ignores a clear historical trend favoring Senators who are appointed and then subsequently run for office. Even campaign managers for other candidates agree.

If Steve Bullock wants to increase the odds of Democrats holding on to Montana’s Senate seat and Democratic control of the U.S. Senate, appointing John Walsh to replace Max Baucus is the most sensible strategic move.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Mark TokarskiPete TalbotVoiceofReasonTokarskiRob Kailey Recent comment authors
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Greg Strandberg
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How can this hurt Bullock? Will anyone remember this in 3 years or even care? I mean sure, Walsh is the #1 pick, but is there any reason for Bullock to do different? Jeez, I’m having a hard time thinking of one, but I’ll try:

Shows he’s independent of his party;
Let’s Walsh prove he can do it alone;
He could ask Montanans what they want.

That’s about it for now.

James Conner
Guest

Would Walsh want to be appointed to the Senate? That’s the question no one is asking, because everyone assumes he would accept the appointment. I’m not so sure he will accept the appointment, assuming Baucus goes to Beijing. Working in Washington would reduce the amount of time Walsh could campaign in Montana. Republicans would work to make him look ignorant and foolish, and trap him into casting no-win votes. I’m not even sure it would be an advantage in the primary. If Walsh wants to come across as a statesman, and as a self-starter who wants to win on his… Read more »

Turner
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Turner

Why would Harry Reid let an embarrassing vote come to the floor?

CrazyJoe
Guest
CrazyJoe

Why do you consider 1990 the start of the modern campaign era? Why not mid-70’s after the first campaign finance laws were passed? At any rate, Walsh will benefit from being appointed because he will suddenly have access to more money and more stature as a sitting Senator. But the downside is that he will have to actually DO SOMETHING in the public eye, which he has so far been shielded from. Adjutant General? No one knows what the heck he does. Lt. Governor? Ditto. In fact, not even the Lt. Governor knows what he does. Assuming he is appointed… Read more »

HelenaInsider
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HelenaInsider

You think the ’70s is the beginning of modern day campaigns? Read some history. The groundwork for how the modern day campaign is run came from the 90s.

Furthermore you’re wrong about pushing a die-hard liberal agenda. When was a die-hard liberal agenda pushed leading up to an election? Also, appointing Williams WOULD be damaging to Bullock.

VoiceofReason
Guest
VoiceofReason

You really shouldn’t be posting this on state time, given how obvious it is who you are.

Tokarski
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Tokarski

American politics has always been extremely corrupt with bribery as common as leaves on the ground in autumn. But I would start the modern era of finance in 1974, Buckley vs Valeo, which essentially ruled that money = speech. That put a sheen of legitimacy on the corruption, allowing regulation of campaign contributions, but ruling that any person could spend as much of his own funds as desired for his own election. The idea that private bribes are Ok is so deeply ingrained that there will be no fix in the near future. Who is going to fix it? The… Read more »

Norma Duffy
Guest

Thats the Biggest mouthful of codswallop I have heard you Mark in some time! A person could mortar a 3 bedroom house with those bricks. Mind explaining the equivalencies between parties please? Maybe adding a little more detail?

Just saying! the “Everybodys doing it” Quote is kinda old, and without evidence.

Tokarski
Guest
Tokarski

I was almost tempted to answer you. Your use of the word “evidence,” even as the people you support are up to their necks in private bribes, is enough for me. Go away.

Norma Duffy
Guest

It just makes no sense not to put Walsh in the seat. Is someone actually gonna tell me the republicans all of a sudden have a sense of fair play??? Really? after all the crap they have done in our state house and on the national stage. the Governors job was won fair an square by Bullock in the last election! He has every right no matter who screams foul, to put in who he wants. The GO to guy here is and should be Walsh. Enough of the placeholders, this is why bolinger isn’t really a democrat he would… Read more »

HelenaInsider
Guest
HelenaInsider

Anyone that thinks we SHOULDn’t put Walsh in that seat just doesn’t get it.

This idea that the egomaniac that is Pat Williams should get the post is insane. Pat doesn’t know his way around the Senate anymore than any other Montanan. The man served decades ago, couldn’t hold a statewide seat, and has been rubbing out his ego ever since.

Walsh is the way to go.

Billings Dad
Guest
Billings Dad

Of course Walsh gets the nod – the Dem establishment need this to happen to bury Bohlinger and the other wannabe’s.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

Everyone has a right to run and I think we should only encourage more to do so, especially our young people that are feeling sickened and turned off by the whole political process, something that will last for most of their lives. With all of the old dying in this state it’s not only a wise choice, it’s a necessity.

Strong and vibrant debate, especially when headache-inducing and hackle-rising, is what both the Democratic and Republican parties in this state need, always have and always will. Fewer people running only ensures that doesn’t happen.

Norma Duffy
Guest

I’m sorry Bolinger isn’t a Democrat he is a Dino shoving to the front of the line, because he thinks he someone important. Just becoming one overnight because your party flew so far to the right…. doesn’t make you a democrat by saying it. For Goodness sake I have never seen so many people think they can change their stripes by putting a “D” behind their name…. and yet they keep writing the most whacked comments about the nuances of our party I have ever seen. Did they ever think to read our parties platform, before opening their mouths, any… Read more »

Rob Kailey
Guest

I’ve been waiting for the manifesto of party purity. Perhaps this above is the introduction.

In a two party system, it makes perfect sense to leave your party and join the other if your party has become bull-goose (duck?) bonkers. That should be especially true of the party seeking advance, the party with the pretense of a ‘big tent’. But perhaps you are correct. The Democrats should have a purity test as well. Maybe we could make Bohlinger wear a scarlet “R” until he proves himself worthy in OUR sight.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

Purity test? Isn’t that why we pay for primaries?

CrazyJoe
Guest
CrazyJoe

The sooner Walsh is on the state and national stage, the sooner everyone will realize he is a bungling moron. So fine with me if Bullock appoints him.

Pete Talbot
Guest
Pete Talbot

While, in my heart, I’d love to see Pat (or Carol) Williams, or Denise juneau, appointed to the seat (they’d all be progressive voters on bills — assuming any real progressive bills ever came up), in my mind, I know Walsh should be appointed. Sure, he’d play it safe in his votes but he’d get a helluva lot more exposure than he’s getting now. Some things I disagree with in the comments above: Pat Williams knows his way around the Senate — he dealt with that body as a congressman for what, 20 years? And I don’t know much about… Read more »

Norma Duffy
Guest

While, in my heart, I’d love to see Pat (or Carol) Williams, or Denise juneau, appointed to something befitting their many years of service this senate seat isn’t one of them. Walsh needs that seat! That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to them more. There experience needs to be shared More. Pat should have been allowed on the college board but we Democrats fucked that up…. and I know Carol for all her years of service should at least be the #1 pick as our ambassador to this state, for the nation. Denise we really need in the spot she… Read more »

Greg Strandberg
Guest

Thanks for your passion.

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