The Impact of Senate Jungle Elections

Conservatives ought to embrace the “Jungle Primary” election system that Louisiana adopted years ago and that prevents mere plurality candidates from winning Senate elections (and which I have written about recently).  Four leftists from red states – incumbent senators Hagan in North Carolina and Begich in Alaska and challengers Grimes in Kentucky and Orman in Kansas – may defeat more conservative opponents with a minority of the popular vote.

Incumbent Senator Kay Hagan, in the last ten polls, has an average of only 44.35% of the vote.  Senator Begich in Alaska seems likely to lose, but if he squeaks out a win, it will be with a current poll average of only 43.9%.  “Independent” Greg Orman in Kansas has a slightly higher average of 45.9% of the vote, and Alison Grimes in Kentucky has the smallest support of all, a piddling 42.7% of the vote in the latest ten polls.

Senator Landrieu in Louisiana and Michelle Nunn in Georgia, if they win, will win because a majority of voters in their states vote for them.  Conservatives ought to consider implementing this sort of system – only candidates who actually win a majority of the vote in a general election – in every state that they control.

Because Louisiana and Georgia do have this system, it is very unlikely that, whatever the result in the first Tuesday of November, Harry Reid will continue to be Majority Leader.  West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Colorado, and Alaska appear likely to flip, and North Carolina and New Hampshire – one or the other – will probably flip as well.  That means that going into the (likely) final runoff elections in Georgia and Louisiana, even if Orman wins in Kansas, Republicans will have 51 seats.

In that case, Landrieu has practically no argument at all to Louisianans to pick her in the runoff election – she is not going to chair any Senate committees – and if going into the Georgia runoff, after the Louisiana runoff, Republicans have a 52 vote majority, what exactly can Nunn argue to Georgians, who are still overwhelmingly conservative?

This sort of system ought to be embraced by conservatives everywhere.  It allows any candidate, regards of party or clique, who can persuade in an open primary at least 34% of the vote to face a single opponent in the runoff election.  The two major political parties, which automatically are on the ballot in the typical generation, are not guaranteed or anything.

Louisiana’s election on November 2, for example, will have one Democrat, two Republicans, and one Libertarian all competing for one of the two places in the runoff election.  Conservative Republicans, urged by party leaders to “get behind the winner,” can safely ignore that “advice” in this first round.  Their votes have real significance without risking a leftist winning election in a conservative state.  If the more conservative Republican wins a spot in the runoff then conservatives then he will have an excellent chance of winning the seat.

There are some ways to tweak this system.  Why not, for example, have the open primary in September or October and then have the runoff on the November election day?  This would help conservatives because they are more motivated than establishment Republicans to vote, and the primary would not have as much interest as the runoff.  The more conservative Republicans in the Senate caucuses, the more likely that the Republican leadership would actually support conservative reforms.

These are minor issues.  The main effect of this reform would be to prevent the sort of trickery the left loves to use to win elections it otherwise would lose.  The center of political power would move to the right by increasing the number of Republicans in Congress and giving conservatives more power among Senate Republicans.  The impact of jungle elections in 2014 may be the difference between a Republican and a Democrat Senate.  The impact beyond 2014 could be the difference between a conservative Republican Party in Congress and a “moderate” Republican Party in Congress.

Conservatives ought to embrace the “Jungle Primary” election system that Louisiana adopted years ago and that prevents mere plurality candidates from winning Senate elections (and which I have written about recently).  Four leftists from red states – incumbent senators Hagan in North Carolina and Begich in Alaska and challengers Grimes in Kentucky and Orman in Kansas – may defeat more conservative opponents with a minority of the popular vote.

Incumbent Senator Kay Hagan, in the last ten polls, has an average of only 44.35% of the vote.  Senator Begich in Alaska seems likely to lose, but if he squeaks out a win, it will be with a current poll average of only 43.9%.  “Independent” Greg Orman in Kansas has a slightly higher average of 45.9% of the vote, and Alison Grimes in Kentucky has the smallest support of all, a piddling 42.7% of the vote in the latest ten polls.

Senator Landrieu in Louisiana and Michelle Nunn in Georgia, if they win, will win because a majority of voters in their states vote for them.  Conservatives ought to consider implementing this sort of system – only candidates who actually win a majority of the vote in a general election – in every state that they control.

Because Louisiana and Georgia do have this system, it is very unlikely that, whatever the result in the first Tuesday of November, Harry Reid will continue to be Majority Leader.  West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Colorado, and Alaska appear likely to flip, and North Carolina and New Hampshire – one or the other – will probably flip as well.  That means that going into the (likely) final runoff elections in Georgia and Louisiana, even if Orman wins in Kansas, Republicans will have 51 seats.

In that case, Landrieu has practically no argument at all to Louisianans to pick her in the runoff election – she is not going to chair any Senate committees – and if going into the Georgia runoff, after the Louisiana runoff, Republicans have a 52 vote majority, what exactly can Nunn argue to Georgians, who are still overwhelmingly conservative?

This sort of system ought to be embraced by conservatives everywhere.  It allows any candidate, regards of party or clique, who can persuade in an open primary at least 34% of the vote to face a single opponent in the runoff election.  The two major political parties, which automatically are on the ballot in the typical generation, are not guaranteed or anything.

Louisiana’s election on November 2, for example, will have one Democrat, two Republicans, and one Libertarian all competing for one of the two places in the runoff election.  Conservative Republicans, urged by party leaders to “get behind the winner,” can safely ignore that “advice” in this first round.  Their votes have real significance without risking a leftist winning election in a conservative state.  If the more conservative Republican wins a spot in the runoff then conservatives then he will have an excellent chance of winning the seat.

There are some ways to tweak this system.  Why not, for example, have the open primary in September or October and then have the runoff on the November election day?  This would help conservatives because they are more motivated than establishment Republicans to vote, and the primary would not have as much interest as the runoff.  The more conservative Republicans in the Senate caucuses, the more likely that the Republican leadership would actually support conservative reforms.

These are minor issues.  The main effect of this reform would be to prevent the sort of trickery the left loves to use to win elections it otherwise would lose.  The center of political power would move to the right by increasing the number of Republicans in Congress and giving conservatives more power among Senate Republicans.  The impact of jungle elections in 2014 may be the difference between a Republican and a Democrat Senate.  The impact beyond 2014 could be the difference between a conservative Republican Party in Congress and a “moderate” Republican Party in Congress.