One of the interesting patterns in national elections is what the Americans call the "sophomore surge" (named after sophomore students, in their second year at college).
In politics, sophomores are first-term sitting MPs seeking re-election for the first time (that is, running at their second-ever election).
Why is this phenomenon so important?
It represents a distinctive electoral advantage for the incumbent.
In the Australian system, the major parties throw a lot of resources into winning marginal seats.
Once elected, sitting members have a lot of taxpayer-funded office resources with which to campaign between elections, plus the advantage of attending a large number of electorate functions as the Federal representative.
In effect, MPs in marginal seats never stop campaigning.
This can give them a "personal vote" advantage of up to 5 percent, irrespective of their party vote and the nationwide swing.
It’s not easy to defeat a sitting member who has worked the electorate hard.
But once defeated, that side of politics loses the personal vote of the old MP.
Then the new MP builds up a following of his/her own, especially in their first term (when MPs, buoyed by the freshness and enthusiasm of elected office, tend to work harder than at any other time in their parliamentary career).
The sophomore surge, therefore, is a double-barreled advantage: the former MPs’ personal vote has disappeared, and the new MP (if a diligent and effective worker on the ground) has grabbed this 2-5 percent electoral benefit.
The net gain for the new MP seeking re-election can be 4-10 percent.
This is especially true in contests where the old, defeated MP is not trying to come back at the next election.
Take, for example, the high-profile seat of Lindsay, based on Penrith in Western Sydney.
In 2013, the Liberals were expected to win it easily, but sitting MP David Bradbury’s personal vote propped up the Labor vote and he only lost 47-53 to the Liberals’ Fiona Scott (Tony Abbott’s famous "sex appeal" candidate).
Now in 2016, Bradbury has retired from politics and over the past three years, Scott has worked hard to improve her profile in the seat.
She’s had a few hiccups in this campaign (mainly over the question of whether she dudded Abbott by voting for Turnbull in the Liberal leadership coup) but I expect the sophomore surge to get her home on 2 July.
In 2013, the Coalition had 16 freshly elected candidates win marginal seats.
Three years later, they are potential ‘sophomore surgers’, namely:
David Coleman in Banks, Nick Varvaris in Barton (although an adverse redistribution in NSW makes his task very hard), Andrew Nikolic (Bass), Brett Whiteley (Braddon), Michelle Landry (Capricornia), Sarah Henderson (Corangamite), Michael Sukkar (Deakin), Karen McNamara (Dobell), Peter Hendy (Eden-Monaro), Matt Williams (Hindmarsh), Fiona Scott, Lucy Wicks (Robertson), Eric Hutchinson (Lyons), Kevin Hogan (Page), Luke Howarth (Petrie) and Craig Laundy (Reid).
I’m expecting Laundy, Wicks, Whiteley, Henderson, Sukkar and Howarth to be hard to beat at this election.