Nicholas Pyeatt

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Conventional wisdom might suggest that incumbent House members should seldom face primary challenges. Yet, such primary challenges take place with surprising regularity. These challenges pose an intriguing anomaly for scholars of Congress and congressional elections. Using a frame of strategic entry, I address this puzzle by identifying factors that predict candidate entry against House incumbents. Similar to Brady et al. (2007), I find that incumbent extremity is advantageous in primary elections, helping incumbents avoid primary opponents. Unlike their work, when looking at all primary challenges, I find this effect limited to ideological voting on more salient issues. Overall extremity plays a role, however, in preventing competitive challengers from entering. Thus, the primary candidates most concerning to incumbents play a role in pushing incumbents to more ideologically extreme positions. In addition to this distinction, this work identifies other differences between all primary opponents and competitive opponents to help scholars better understand the strategy behind primary challenges to House incumbents.

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