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Does a political scandal affect the incumbent party's ability to get reelected?

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Yes, political scandals do affect the incumbent party's chances for reelection.  The impacts, of course, are affected by how serious the scandal is, how long it happens before the election, and other factors such as the economy and the qualities of the individual candidates.

Looking at some relatively recent scandals, the Republicans lost seats in both the Senate and the House in the 1974 election, which came just months after President Nixon resigned from office.  The Republicans also lost the 1976 presidential election.

The Iran-Contra scandal happened just after the midterm elections in 1986.  By 1988, it is hard to say if it had an impact.  George Bush won that election, but the GOP lost a few seats in the Senate and House.

Finally, we can look at Clinton's impeachment.  In the next election, George Bush beat Al Gore.  The Democrats, however, gained seats in both houses of Congress.

From this evidence, we can tentatively say that scandals matter, but we cannot conclude that they are the most important factor in whether an incumbent party wins reelection

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