Blue Cracks: Dems Finally Break Through, Flip Legislative Seats in Two Special Elections

Posted: May 24, 2017 3:25 PM

Up until now, the Democratic Party had gone 0-for-6 in Trump-era attempts to win GOP-held legislative seats, with Republicans actually adding to their tally in Louisiana. That changed in two northeastern states last night, where democrats won a pair of races, both of which must be considered significant upsets:

It's too early to make any conclusive pronouncements, and the midterms are more than 17 months away, but these outcomes should set off some early alarm bells for Republicans.  Dismissing these as minor blue state losses is spin.  Trump's single-digit margin in the New Hampshire district might suggest that it's a swing seat, but it's not: Democrats had never won it before last night.  And the New York race, won by a union-backed left-winger, flipped a heavily Republican seat in a legislative district Trump carried with 60 percent of the vote last fall.  The worry for the GOP is that an unpopular president plagued by controversy and scandal could drag down the party -- particularly if liberal enthusiasm and anti-Trump intensity drives strong Democratic turnout, while complacent or demoralized Republicans disengage from the process.  In the New York contest, the Bernie-supporting candidate won a blowout in an R+13 district after unions funneled lots of money her way, and turnout was quite low.

Meanwhile, one of the races included in the 0-for-6 statistic above is the special Congressional election in GA-06.  It's a strong Republican district that has shown itself to be very Trump-skeptical.  Most polls have shown a tight battle, but a new survey gives Democrat Jon Ossoff, a liberal neophyte who doesn't even live in the district, a seven-point lead over conservative Karen Handel.  We'll see if that number proves to be an outlier, but I'd give Ossoff roughly even odds of winning there next month, especially if last night's enthusiasm gap persists.  And out in Montana, Republicans are spending money hand over fist to protect what should be a relatively safe seat:

The GOP nominee has flaws that were exposed in his recent failed gubernatorial bid, but his Democratic opponent is out of step with Montanans on major issues, and has been dogged by personal financial issues. Nevertheless, the race is looking too close for comfort down the final stretch.  That special election takes place tomorrow.  I'll close by reiterating that the midterm elections are a political eternity away, but we now have some evidence that the pendulum is swinging.  I'll leave you with one polling bright spot for the party in power, as one new national survey suggests that Trump may have arrested his approval free fall:

Republicans can likely limit their losses if Trump is in the mid-40's (his standing in the Politico/MC series has been relatively favorable, compared to other polls), and if GOP voters decide to show up in respectable numbers.  If he's considerably lower and the base is tuned out, a blue bloodbath could await.  Also, could Republicans' best ally end up being...Nancy Pelosi?

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