With Democrats Finally Scoring Special Elections Victories, Do They Still Think Winning Them Doesn't Matter

Posted: May 25, 2017 6:00 PM

As Guy wrote today, Democrats were 0-6 in the special election cycle so far this year. Then, they won two state legislature seats in New York and New Hampshire. The New York race was a heavily Republican district:

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.

So, will they change their tune? Prior to these wins, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was downplaying expectations, saying that he felt his party didn’t need to win any of these races after a string of electoral failures:

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, both downplayed expectations for their candidates Tuesday and intimated that forcing Republicans to spend upwards of $16 million on these races already is a victory of sorts.

"I'm not sure that we do [have to win one]," Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. "Frankly, the fact that they're having to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars to hold these seats is astounding."

It’s still too early to glean anything from this, especially since the 2018 midterms are only 502 days away. Right now, the Montana race seems to be veering towards the Republicans [see update below], but in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, the Democrats, Jon Ossoff has a seven-point lead over Republican Karen Handel. The GA-06 is already the most expensive House race in history. Montana’s will come to a close tomorrow, but Georgia will be settled on June 20. We’ll know more by then, but for now—the GOP is worried that the ongoing investigation into the Russian collusion claims could be a negative factor for the midterms. The two Democrats won when Trump was free falling after allegations that he put pressure on then-FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. Mr. Comey wrote a memo on it. Fox News confirmed its existence.

Trump also reportedly leaned on NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers, to deny any existence of Russian collusion. The president did the same to Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence. Rogers reportedly drafted a memo on the incident. Before we jump the gun, no one has seen these memos. The DOJ and congressional intelligence committees should subpoena those memos for review and see whether any obstruction of justice occurred. Those accusations caused Trump to free-fall in the polls leading to last night’s Democratic wins. In GA-06, the president is also unpopular.

Hold fast, folks.

UPDATE: We’ll see how things turn out for Montana’s special election to see who will succeed Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke, who left to become Donald Trump’s secretary of the interior. Republican candidate Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault for body slamming The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs at a meet and greet event in Bozeman. Over half the ballots cast have already been submitted through early voting. Gianforte has lost newspaper endorsements and went into the bunker today, giving zero media interviews. In April, he was ahead by 12 points over his Democratic opponent, Rob Quist, in a Gravis poll. Either way, body slamming members of the press—and being charged for assault—is the most avoidable of unforced errors for pretty much everything.