It's been 190 days since Texas kicked off the 2014 midterm primary elections in March, and the curtain finally closed on the last nominating contests of the year Tuesday in the Northeast. The general election looms, but a review of the last half-year highlights a number of important political lessons that will remain relevant well beyond 2014. Here are seven important takeaways from the 2014 primaries:
Incumbents still rule the roost "... but not as easily as they used to.
Just four congressional incumbents lost primaries in 2014, none of them senators, a departure from several tumultuous years of primary challenges. But more of those wins took harder work than usual. Fewer and fewer incumbents are running unopposed each election, and the rate of incumbents finishing under 60 or 70 percent in their primaries has more than doubled in recent elections. Four senators (Democrat Brian Schatz and Republicans Pat Roberts, Lamar Alexander, and Thad Cochran) finished with less than half of their primary vote.
Those members and others will be perfectly happy with their wins despite the margins. But it's not hard to draw a line between the growing number of incumbents with primary worries—worries stoked by the occasional shock loss of someone like former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor—and the declining number of incumbents from safe seats willing to cross party lines on key congressional votes.