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Election By Numbers

A statistical narrative of the 2010 midterms.

The election is over, which means it’s time for pundits to cram the outcomes into a narrative. But why let the talking heads have all the fun? Below are some of the highlights from the election—told by the numbers. Did the Blue Dogs lose big? Did Sarah Palin’s chosen candidates sweep their races? And how did incumbents fare in the most anti-incumbent election … possibly ever?

Election results are as reported by The New York Times on Wednesday afternoon. Palin endorsement data comes from The Washington Post’s Palin Tracker. Historical re-election rates come from the Center for Responsive Politics. Win rates were calculated by dividing the number of wins reported by the number of elections with a consensus winner announced. (Of course, some races are still up in the air, so those were left out for now. That’s why the math might not always add up perfectly.)

How would you spin the numbers?

Riding the Wave

Number of House seats rated “tossup” by the Cook Political Report before Tuesday: 50

Won by Republicans: 32

Won by Democrats: 10

Number of House seats won by Tea Party candidates: 39

House incumbent re-election rate: 86 percent*

Last year in which House incumbent re-election rate was this low: 1970

House incumbent re-election rate in 1994: 90 percent

Number of Blue Dogs seeking re-election: 48

Number winning: 23

Number losing: 22

(*The rate will be 86 percent if all the incumbents in undecided races win; if they all lose, it will be 83 percent.)

Health Problems?

Number of House Democrats from districts McCain won who voted in favor of health care reform: 17

Number winning re-election: 1

Number losing: 15


Number of House Democrats from districts McCain won who voted against health care reform: 23

Number winning re-election: 8

Number losing: 14

Battle of the Sexes

Number of women in the House seeking re-election: 70

Number winning: 57

Number losing: 10 (including 1 in a primary election)

Win rate: 85 percent

Number of males seeking re-election to the House: 326

Number winning: 272

Number losing: 45 (including 3 in primary elections)

Win rate: 86 percent

Star Power

Number of candidates Sarah Palin endorsed in congressional races: 33

Number winning: 21

Number losing: 9

Number of congressional candidates President Obama held fundraisers or rallies for: 12

Number who won: 4

Number who lost: 5


Most personal money spent in a losing race: $140 million (Meg Whitman)

Person with the most years in Congress who lost: 36 (James Oberstar)

Current number of black GOP members of Congress: 0

Number of black GOP members in next Congress: 2

Alexander Hart is a reporter-researcher at The New Republic.