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.
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.