… The “incumbent rule” emerged from an underlying structure that is increasingly absent.
In the ’80s and ’90s, most incumbents were much better-known than their challengers. So when a voter said he was “undecided,” what he really meant is that he knew the incumbent and did not particularly want to vote for him or her. However, these “undecideds” did not yet know enough about the challenger to support that candidate. …
Today, things are different. As the amount of money spent in competitive races increased exponentially, fewer challengers are unknowns prior to Election Day. [cont.]
From The Polling Report archives: