Last year while running for governor of Oregon - he would take second place in the Republican primary - Kevin Mannix made a history-based argument to those in his party worried about whether he was electable. Mannix had, after all, lost not only the race for governor the election before in 2002, but also two runs for attorney general against a less-than-charismatic opponent (Hardy Myers, who's retiring this year).
Mannix' counter was this: You don't get to be governor of Oregon without losing a race or two before getting there.
The point's barb doesn't hold perfectly - you have to overlook John Kitzhaber, Barbara Roberts and Neil Goldschmidt, who (so far as we can recall) never lost a race - but it does have a point. Oregon's current governor, Ted Kulongoski, lost a run for the job in 1982, which followed by two years a failed run for the U.S. Senate. The three governors pre-Goldschmidt - Victor Atiyeh, Robert Straub, and Tom McCall - all lost bids for major office before winning the governorship. (Their predecessor, Mark Hatfield, was lossless, but it may be worth noting that he became governor by defeating incumbent Democrat Robert Holmes, who in turn won the job by defeating his Republican predecessor, Elmo Smith.) No binding rule, but some precedent is available.
The argument didn't work for Mannix; he lost the Republican primary in 2006 to a man he'd defeated in it four years earlier. But the idea at hand - building a winning campaign on the rising ground of earlier defeats - has some pertinence in next year's Northwest major office races.
As noted here yesterday, the region's sole governor’s race likely will rematch Democrat Chris Gregoire, now the incumbent, and Republican Dino Rossi. The two Senate races in the region would not be reruns, though in Idaho the probable Republican and Democratic nominees for a presumably (presumably) open seat, Jim Risch and Larry LaRocco, have run against each other twice before.
Moreover: Early energy in U.S. House races have focused so far on three districts in the region, one in each state - and each one featuring, evidently, a rematch from 2006. In the Washington 8th, Republican Dave Reichert likely will re-face Democrat Darcy Burner; in the Idaho 1st, Republican Bill Sali probably will again be challenged by Democrat Larry Grant; and (although this is less settled) in the Oregon 5th, Democrat Darlene Hooley may again face Republican Mike Erickson.
Yesterday we looked at the recent history of taking out incumbents (spotty at best). Today: How do candidates do when they run again? Do reruns often work?
Examine the regional results over the last generation, and you find an answer: Sometimes, but usually when something important enough changes about the race from one election to another, usually something that has to do with the incumbent more than it does the challenger.