Sen. Lautenberg demonstrated the retirement paradox

by Andrew Gelman on June 3, 2013 · 2 comments

in Campaigns and elections

From three years ago:

The flip side of this was in 2008, when 84-year-old Frank Lautenberg ran for reelection in New Jersey. That was a Democratic year when the Democrats might’ve done well with just about anybody. (Or maybe not; I don’t really follow New Jersey politics and am just extrapolating from national polls.) When 2014 rolls around, they’re going to need to find someone new, and at that point they might wish they had an incumbent already in the slot.

What makes sense for the individual officeholder—stay in when you think you’ll have an easy win, and wait to quit when the going is getting tough—isn’t so helpful for the national party.

{ 2 comments }

Brett Champion June 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I doubt that the Democrats are at all worried about the 2014 Senate election. New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the US Senate since the mid-70s, and the state is far less favorable to Republicans than it was then. It would take a virtual national armageddon for Democrats or them choosing a Democratic version of Christine O’Donnell as their candidate in 2014 for them not to win the New Jersey Senate election.

Zach June 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Yes! Whenever I see extremely old politicians I think they’re being selfish. The counterargument I make to myself is that politicians accrue influence over time (I don’t know if influence diminishes with senility), so in any given term it might be better to have a “lion of the senate” than a freshman.

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