In the middle of President Trump's well-received address on Tuesday, a liberal writer and commentator excitedly tweeted out some breaking special election results out of Connecticut, racking up thousands of retweets. The Left, which has been methodically stripped of power by voters since 2008, is casting about for evidence that their feverish "resistance" is tipping the political pendulum back in the other direction. Thus, this "accomplishment" was deemed a celebratory moment:
While Trump is speaking, results from three CT special elections come in:Dems won 2 seats bigly & nearly took the most GOP seat in the state— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) March 1, 2017
Ah, but context is everything. The two Democratic victories came in heavily Democratic districts, within a comfortably blue state. And that supposed 'close call'? The Republican ended up winning by 12 points "in a race that Democratic activists worked with some success to nationalize as a referendum on Trump," according to the local press. So despite all the outrage-fueled energy and donations flowing in one direction, the GOP candidate still prevailed by double digits, even as Republican voters turned out in low numbers. His victory preserved the 18-18 tie in Connecticut's state senate, in which Democrats' six-seat advantage was erased last November. The Republican State Leadership Committee published a memo on Wednesday noting that the allegedly widespread groundswell of opposition to Trump and Republicans hasn't really materialized in early returns. Big protests and media hyperventilating may create the illusion of a nationwide backlash, but voters don't appear to have signed on to The Narrative at this point:
Since Election Day last November when Republicans claimed the White House, Congress and modern highs in state-level control, high-profile Democrats including Eric Holder and David Brock have said the way to rebuild is through the states. The Democrat resistance may be generating a lot of noise in Washington, D.C., but so far in 2017, it has shown little impact on elections in the states. Even with hefty financial investments and high profile Democrats lending star power to state-level candidates, Republicans won control of every district they previously held across multiple states that Democrats have won in the last three or more presidential elections, including as recently as yesterday in Connecticut.
Here are the relevant state-by-state results. Pay attention to the details:
National Democrats first set their sights on two early January special elections in Virginia, a state won by the Democrat in the last three presidential elections. In House District 85, where the 2016 presidential results were evenly split, national liberal groups coordinated 11,392 donations of $100 or less into the Democrat campaign, yet Republican Rocky Holcomb won by a comfortable six points to maintain a strong 66-34 majority as we approach their 2017 election cycle. With chamber control at stake, the same results have occurred in the Virginia state Senate, a Republican majority despite a redistricting map advanced by Democrats. Governor Terry McAuliffe, a top Hillary Clinton supporter, helped the Democrat campaign spend 42 percent more than the Republican campaign, yet the Republican won by 13.5 percent. In Minnesota, Democrats went all-in to flip House District 32B. Governor Mark Dayton, U.S. Senator Al Franken and Congressman Rick Nolan all participated in door knocking events to support the Democrat candidate. Republican Anne Neu still managed a comfortable six-point win. Neu’s victory grows the Republican caucus in the chamber to 77, the largest GOP majority after a presidential cycle in state history.
Just last night, Republicans were able to hold Connecticut Senate District 32 in suburban Waterbury. Despite over $53,000 spent by a liberal California Super PAC, Republican state Rep. Eric Berthel was elected to the state Senate by 12 points. Berthel’s win preserves split control in the Senate and gives Republicans a chance next year to win outright control of the chamber for the first time since 1996, after gaining three seats in November. Democrats did preserve a one-seat majority in the Delaware state Senate, a chamber they have controlled since 1972, by maintaining control of an open-Democrat seat. Republicans were only that close because they defeated the Senate President Pro Tempore in November. High profile surrogates Joe Biden, Martin O’Malley and both current U.S. Senators campaigned for the Democrat candidate. In the end, spending approximately $1 million, or 20 times more than the typical Delaware state Senate race, ensured a victory margin that mirrored the margin Obama/Biden won the district in 2012.
In other words, a flurry of status quo outcomes on Democrat-friendly terrain. Why is this important? Three reasons: (1) One of the biggest political stories of the Obama years was the utter decimation of the Democratic Party at the state level. Republicans won hundreds of seats across the countries between Obama's 2009 inauguration and his 2017 departure, a trend that commenced almost immediately. Democrats hope to turn back that red wave, at least a bit, by galvanizing anti-Trump sentiment. In the earliest tests of that strategy, they're discovering that perhaps they're still misreading the temperature of the electorate. (2) These electoral results add to the pile of data points that demonstrate how the 'resist' movement and its media supporters are mired in an echo chamber. Will they adjust or double down? (3) Republicans cannot afford to become complacent. Even though they've successfully defended every seat so far, the money and intensity is with the Democrats, who did noticeably improve their margins in several of these races. That's nothing to scoff at. The sheer number of seats lost to Republicans from coast to coast under Obama means that Democrats have a wide array of targets to try to pick off over the next few years. History suggests that they'll make a resurgence to some degree, but the magnitude and scope of Democrats' revival may depend on Republican voters remaining engaged and matching their counterparts' fervor.