Winning percentage of incumbent statewide officials, legislators and members of Congress in primary runoffs since 1996.

Last week, we explored the historical success rates of first-place candidates entering primary runoffs for “open” seats, meaning no incumbent in the race. Since 2002, the candidate who finished first won 60% of the time, but that percentage varied based on their plurality (greater or less than 40%) and margin (greater or less than 10%).

Party mattered when it came to candidates who received less than 40% of the vote and finished first by less than 10 percentage points. Republicans in that situation won just 34% of the time, while Democrats won 62% of the time. Otherwise, the success rates between the parties were about the same.

Today we look at runoffs involving an incumbent. If history is a guide, how a candidate stands depends on where – as in which office – they sit.

Statewide Incumbents

Seven of the last eight statewide incumbents forced into runoffs prevailed. All of the victors finished first in their respective primaries, and all but one of the victors finished at least 14 points ahead of their runoff opponent.

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