A voter casts their ballot at a polling place in Nashua, N.H., on Feb. 9, 2016.
Photo by Cassi Alexandra/For The Washington Post/Getty

Dems’ hot streak in special elections continues

The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/27/18, 9:57 PM ET

Democrats flip seats in N.H., Connecticut special elections

Rachel Maddow reports on three state special elections, two of which, in New Hampshire and Connecticut, were formerly Republican-held and flipped by Democrats, and a third, in Kentucky, that was retained by Republicans but saw a 28 point Democratic swing
Rachel Maddow reports on three state special elections, two of which, in New Hampshire and Connecticut, were formerly Republican-held and flipped by Democrats, and a third, in Kentucky, that was retained by Republicans but saw a 28 point Democratic swing
If it seems like every Wednesday morning offers a new opportunity to review Democratic victories in special elections the night before, it’s not your imagination.

Two Democrats won state legislative contests on Tuesday night, flipping the seats from Republican hands and marking the 38th and 39th legislative flips since President Trump’s inauguration. Democrats have now also flipped six this year alone.

There were three state special elections yesterday, starting with a Republican-held seat in Kentucky, which the GOP candidate won by 34 points. But even here, while the race clearly wasn’t close, this is a district that backed Donald Trump by 62 points – which suggests the Democratic candidate yesterday did surprisingly well.

The next race to be decided last night, however, was in New Hampshire, in a Republican-held district where Trump won by double digits. And yet, last night, the Democratic candidate won by eight points.

And then there was a state House race in Connecticut, in a district Trump narrowly lost, but which has nevertheless been represented by a Republican for the last four decades. Not anymore: the Democratic candidate in this race narrowly won yesterday by two points.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s tally is in line with the Daily Beast piece quoted above: Dems have now flipped 39 seats from red to blue since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

What’s more, as Vox explained, “According to an extremely useful and comprehensive spreadsheet compiled by Daily Kos, across 70 special elections in 2017, Democrats ran 10 points ahead of Clinton and 7 points ahead of Obama’s 2012 results. Those numbers have accelerated into 2018. Across 16 races, Democrats are running 27 points ahead of Clinton and 15 points ahead of Barack Obama. 

Will Dems be able to keep that up through the midterm elections in the fall? Almost certainly not – because turnout models for special elections tend to be quite different from cyclical general elections. That said, Democrats don’t need to run 27 points ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance to do well in the midterms.

As for why Democrats have enjoyed this hot streak, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent had an interesting chat last week with DLCC Executive Director Jessica Post, who sketched out a blueprint that helped explain the underlying factors.

The usual Republican talking point, meanwhile, is that these state legislative victories are less important than the Trump-era congressional special elections, where Republicans have had more success. As we discussed last week, that’s really not a good argument.