Is divided government—a Republican president and a Democratic Congress—the product of diminished competition for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives? In this groundbreaking study, Gary C. Jacobson uses a detailed analysis of the evolution of competition in postwar House elections to argue that the problems Republicans face in seeking House seats are political rather than structural. With abundant graphic illustration, he shows that divided government is only one piece of a much broader electoral pattern that is creating new opportunities as well as new barriers to partisan change in the House, He examines shifts in the incumbency advantage, campaign finance practices, the "swing ratio," and other related phenomena, but he turns up little evidence that they are to blame for divided government. More important, he argues, are trends in partisan opposition: the quality of candidates, campaigns, issues, and career strategies. As individual candidates and campaigns have become more important in winning elections, the weakness of Republican House candidacies has prevented the party from taking more seats away from the Democrats. Jacobson contends that the House is not nearly as insulated from electoral change as recent elections might suggest. The notion that House elections are no longer capable of reflecting popular preferences is, he concludes, simply wrong.
Preface -- Introduction -- All Politics Is Local: Electoral Disintegration in the Postwar Era -- After the Primal Scream: The Incumbency Advantage Revisited -- You Can't Beat Somebody with Nobody: Trends in Partisan Opposition -- Democratic Hegemony in the House: Structural Explanations -- Democratic Hegemony in the House: Political Explanations