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House's "Plus Five Club" Could Be Losing a Lot of Members

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For a member of the House of Representatives, the fifth election has traditionally been considered the last tough one.

By the sixth contest, 10 years of incumbency and a massive fundraising advantage is usually enough to blow away any challenger. Once you've made it through five terms, it would take a major scandal or a drastic redistricting. In the Senate, the rule of thumb was that once elected to a second six-year term, members were seldom unseated.

After joining this club of super incumbents, members start taking big leaps forward inside the party apparatus. Since other members know you're not going anywhere, they're more likely to trust you with responsible positions. Also, your surplus campaign cash helps remind more vulnerable newbies who their real friends are.

The "Plus Five Club" is where every ambitious member wants to be - safe, powerful and without the need to go grovel for votes every two years.

This year is obviously quite different, even for a wave election. The last two big waves, 1994 and 1974, swept out many vulnerable first and second term members and allowed unlikely candidates to win open seats, but relatively few entrenched members were defeated.

In 1974, when Democrats gained 49 House seats including the defeat of 36 incumbent Republicans, only seven of the seats were taken from Republicans past the five-term mark.

The three longest serving members unseated, Charles Gubser of California, William Bray of Indiana and William Widnall of New Jersey, had all been in for 12 terms.

While they were all longtime members, none were exactly lords of the Hill. They had long tenure, but not great power.

Contrast that with this year's election. Of the 86 seats on which Democrats are pretty clearly playing defense, you have many longtime members who are people of considerable power in trouble.

When Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts (15 terms) lends his campaign $200,000, Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota (17 terms) gets shouted down by constituents at his own debate, Rep. Nick Joe Rahall of West Virginia (16 terms) scrambling to beat back a challenge, Rep Ike Skelton of Missouri (16 terms ) is listed in a "toss-up" race by the Cook Political Report and Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia (13 terms) is shown neck and neck in polls, one gets the sense that something different is going on from usual waves.

These members are well-established, well-financed and sit atop powerful committees and subcommittees. If they are worried, how many more members of long years should be worried?

It looks like there could be many more members of the "Plus Five Club" who end up out on their pensions 12 days hence.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.