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Congressional reelections: Is this what we’ve come down to?

The jerk we have now is better than the one the other party would put in.

The vast majority of congressional incumbents seeking reelection will be reelected in 2014. That’s always true and no one doubts that it will remain true this year, despite the record low-approval numbers for Congress as a whole.

In fact, the kind of political geeks who study the race-by-race picture of the 435-member House of Representative tell us that the number of district that might swing from one party to the other this year is much lower than usual.

I recall a time when the explanation for this was that people didn’t like Congress or the overall job it was doing but liked their own member, who fit the district. But the New Year’s look-ahead at the political year piece by Mark Barabak of the L.A. Times suggest that the old explanation is due for a revision. It’s not that people like their individual representative, it’s that they dislike him or her less than the alternative.

The Times headline writer describes it as a “keep-the-bums-in mood.” Barabak summarizees the argument thus:

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It is a paradox of these discontented times. Participants in a Cincinnati focus group led by Democratic pollster Peter Hart expressed their feelings toward lawmakers by drawing tombstones and broken hearts. Public opinion surveys show contempt for Congress reaching unprecedented levels.

But as much as they dislike their own representatives, Democrats and Republicans hold members of the opposite party in even lower regard.

“Republicans blame liberals and big government and Obama,” said Stuart Rothenberg, who analyzes races for his nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “Democrats are upset because they think the tea party won’t allow anything to get done — Republicans are too extreme.”

Perhaps this is an awkward moment to add: Happy New Year MinnPost readers.