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Political Tidbits: Winning House Seats

Depending on the year, only five to ten percent of all congressional House seats could be called competitive. In rare instances you’ll see higher numbers. But basically, only 10% of House seats are within striking distance in any given year.

There are many reasons. Campaign laws favor incumbents over challengers. Districts are often gerrymandered (see especially California) which produce results favorable to incumbents.

Finally, people just tend to vote for incumbents. A Representative is a friend. The government is a scary thing to everyone, liberals and conservatives alike. The government can regulate your livelihood; they can claim your property under eminent domain. People want something familiar in the face of such possibilities.

An incumbent Congressman is a defense against the unknown. Because Representatives campaign every two years, they get a lot of intimate face time with the voters. Voters feel a kinship with their reps. Policy differences between friends are unimportant, what’s important is our local rep provides a sense of security against the actions of a very powerful government.

You can now see why winning a Congressional seat is always an uphill battle. Waiting for retirements, deaths or federal indictments isn’t the only answer though.

A challenge to a local incumbent is rarely successful the first time out. The challenger must humble himself before the electorate. He must become familiar to them. Losing a couple of elections is often the trick. A challenger must also show the incumbent a lot of respect. There’s no reason why you can’t like your opponent, it’s just you have better or fresher ideas.

Some of the consequences of running the same candidate three times is the campaign gets better each time. Mistakes become less frequent, donor lists get bigger and volunteers become easier to find. A strong challenger who comes back election after election will often give an incumbent motivation to retire. Also, the natural election cycle is 12 years, so if you run three elections there’s often a 50% chance the electorate has shifted enough to elect the challenger based on demographics alone.

There’s a limit, to be sure. Often if you don’t win the election on the third try, you’re never going to win it at all. Taking 6 years out of a (potential) politician’s life can be stressful and costly. But, winning a Congressional seat has rewards which far outweigh the costs.

Unfortunately, in the GOP losing any race will create a stigma (for candidates and campaign managers). The GOP is about winners, not losers. Local organizations frown upon sending the same candidate to challenge an incumbent multiple times. It is often only tolerated in un-winnable districts where it’s difficult finding people willing to put their names on the ballot.

This might be the reason the House of Representatives belonged to the Democrats for 40 years prior to 1994.

It is my hope 2006 didn’t start another 40 years of House Democratic rule.


I Contribute to the GDP

Captain Capitalism has finally come out with his “I Contribute to the GDP” T-Shirt idea (Lawyers and [most] liberal arts professors need not apply). Also, he has a book coming out soon (about three weeks).

Check out his blog for more details.

The Negative VORP club of the Twins

Value Over Replacement Player, or VORP, is a counting stat which awards players runs based on offensive performance compared to the statistical concept of the replacement player. The distribution of talent in baseball is not normal but pyramidal. There are a lot more players at the bottom than at the top. With lots of players available at very low cost who are at the bottom of the talent distribution we can rate the marginal value of major league players compared to these cheap journeyman players.

Six of the Twins players are below the replacement level, here’s my take on what to do with them:

Michael Cuddyer, RF
VORP -.2

There’s no doubt Cuddyer has had a down year. His long term track record suggests he’s playing well below where he should be and he’s on the DL anyway until sometime in August. Cuddyer isn’t someone to cut, but the Twins will have to make some difficult decisions when he comes off the DL. Personally, Cuddyer stays and Gomez gets sent down for some time in AAA before coming back up with the club in September.

Glen Perkins, SP
VORP -.6

You’d think a pitcher with a 4.08 ERA and a 7-3 record would rank somewhere above replacement level, and the truth is he probably does. But, his xFIP (expected fielding independent ERA, a stat which tries to remove bias from other more traditional stats) is a high 4.83 which puts him below the league average (presently 4.17) somewhere near the 80th percentile among qualified pitchers. Not great, but at age 25 Perkins still has a lot of potential upside. Considering his injury last year and the fact he’s now approaching career highs in innings pitched it might be time to shut Perkins down or throw him into the bullpen. With Francisco Liriano waiting in AAA, shutting Perkins down wouldn’t hurt the Twins at all.

Craig Monroe, DH/OF
VORP -1.3

Monroe did good work as a right handed power hitter who split time with Jason Kubel at DH. Monroe’s .677 OPS the year is actually higher than his work last year. Of course, his OPS is very unimpressive for a DH and despite the fact Monroe brings some right-handed power to the Twins lineup there are other players who could fill Monroe’s shoes better and cheaper. I would DFA the guy but the Twins will probably hold onto him.

Adam Everett, SS
VORP -3.4

Everett has spent much of the season on the DL with arm problems, which has actually lessened the damage. Everett is a great glove, normally, but Twins fans didn’t get to see it earlier this year because Everett was playing hurt. Oh yeah, Everett is absolutely terrible with a bat in his hand. So, he’s so far added nothing to this team this year. His signing can only be called a disaster for the Twins and while I’m sure the Twins will give Everett a roster spot that should be going to a more deserving young player, I would designate him for assignment.

Carlos Gomez, CF
VORP -6.1

A lot of Twins fans fell in love with Gomez’s speed, but they ignored his track record. Well, the Twins front office did the same thing and so did Ron Gardenhire and the end result was having the worst hitter in the league leading off for the Twins almost the entire year. VORP doesn’t take into consideration defense, and Gomez is the best defensive centerfielder in the majors. I think Gomez could benefit from some time in the minors and could rejoin the Twins in September but the Twins will continue to play him despite his poor performance this year.

Mike Lamb, 3B
VORP -12.4

It’s been a tough season for Mike Lamb, and an even tougher one for Twins fans. Luckily, Lamb has spent most of the season on the bench. Unfortunately, the Twins are paying Lamb and will be paying Lamb millions of dollars over the next couple of seasons whether he performs or not. I would cut my losses and DFA Lamb, but the Twins seem unable to let go overpaid veterans until they’ve help lose 15 or 20 games. Call this another free-agent signing gone nuclear for the Twins.

Jewish Baseball Players

David Moore:

I wouldn’t mind getting the mentioned set, there are a few on ebay but you can’t have everything you want when you’re preparing for grad school.

From the Notebook

-The second Twins Podcast of the year is up, Dan Wade, Dan Carey, Seth Stohs and Jeff Straub all joined me for an hour long roundtable discussion. I will be the first to admit I’m a little rusty, but I think other than some little snafus and a lot of verbal pauses I feel did alright.

-Saw The Dark Knight over the weekend. I tried writing up a longer review but my thinking isn’t real clear yet. I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as so many others have. The movie was a bit long and the “arc of the story” was muddled. While it is a good movie, it’s simply not one I would call “revolutionary” or “The best ever” or “best of the genre”. I will say I think Heath Ledger is quite deserving of Oscar consideration for his role as the joker (though I haven’t seen a lot of movies this year so I have no idea about what kind of competition there will be for the supporting actor role (or best actor?)). While my suspension of disbelief in Batman Begins was never really challenged, I can’t say the same for The Dark Knight. I say go see it, but it’s a guarded recommendation.

Twins Podcast

Dan Wade and Dan Carey from the Bleacher Report, along with Seth Stohs and Jeff Straub joined me on the Podcast this week.

Podcast permalink

Twins Podcast

At 8pm CT, available my BTR homepage.

Call-in number is 646-652-4947

Twins Podcast

At 8pm CT, available my BTR homepage.

Call-in number is 646-652-4947

Random Link o’ the Day:


Random Link o’ the Day:


(It’s a Minor League Equivalency Calculator)