It is conventional wisdom that it is a large advantage to be an incumbent in an election. The evidence is certainly there, as incumbents are much more likely to be elected than challengers. Incumbents have the advantage of name recognition and easier access to resources to improve on this name recognition. This is particularly important when the electorate is rather ignorant about what its representatives actually do, say the United States. They also have access to pork barrel and redistricting. What about a country where people follow more closely their politicians and where they need to take clear positions like, say, Spain?
Enriqueta Aragonès and Santiago Sánchez-Pagés claim that incumbents may then have a disadvantage, as they have to take stands, while challengers have no need to compromise. If fact, the challenger has the further advantage to act after the incumbent voted. Using a three period model, Aragonès and Sánchez-Pagés show that despite this, the incumbent can always find an optimal strategy to get reelected, but it may not be his best choice. Indeed, he may prefer not to compromise, knowing a defeat is looming and reap whatever rewards may come thereafter.