Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

John Pitney

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Nationalization has defined American politics in recent years as voters increasingly view state and local government through their national party loyalties. The 2010 midterm elections were intensely nationalized: Hundreds of races for the United States House of Representatives focused on President Barack Obama’s agenda instead of local issues. After election night, Republicans gained 63 seats in the US House, giving them their largest majority since the 1940s. One of the political victims of the election were members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of centrist, fiscally conservative Democrats in Congress. Over half of the Blue Dogs lost re-election, including Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota and Harry Mitchell of Arizona’s 5th District. In Congress: The Electoral Connection, congressional scholar David Mayhew outlines three re-election strategies that members of Congress pursue: credit claiming, advertising, and position taking. This thesis applies those three approaches to Sandlin and Mitchell’s races to argue that nationalization may increasingly pose a threat to traditional, swing district re-election strategies in the future; vulnerable incumbents may not be able to avoid national controversy as the significance of local political issues recede in the minds of American voters.