Politico had an item late last week that included a curious assertion: “House Republicans note they have yet to lose a special election in the Trump era.” This falsehood came on the heels of Donald Trump asserting via Twitter, “Remember, Republicans are 5-0 in Congressional Races this year. The media refuses to mention this.”
Over the holiday weekend, the president did it again.
“Remember, the Republicans are 5-0 in Congressional races this year. In Senate, I said Roy M would lose in Alabama and supported Big Luther Strange - and Roy lost. Virginia candidate was not a ‘Trumper,’ and he lost. Good Republican candidates will win BIG!”
To paraphrase Luke Skywalker, every assertion in that tweet was wrong. For example, Trump never predicted Moore’s defeat, at least not publicly. Virginia’s Ed Gillespie, who wasn’t a congressional candidate this year, went out of his way to run a Trump-style, anti-immigration campaign, which played a big role in his nine-point defeat.
But putting these details aside, I’m fascinated by these repeated assertions that Republicans are undefeated in congressional special elections this year. It’s rare to see a major party simply pretend their losses didn’t happen.
But that’s precisely what’s happening. There was a congressional special election in California’s 34th district over the summer, for example, which a Democrat won easily. There was also a special election in Alabama earlier this month that the GOP may have noticed.
For those eager to argue that a 5-2 record in congressional special election is pretty good, that’s fine. Barack Obama’s Democratic Party actually went 5-0 in the first year of his presidency, the year before a Republican wave ended the Dems’ House majority, but GOP partisans looking for good news can find some if they look hard enough. (They should probably ignore how surprisingly competitive the Democratic candidates were in this year’s Republican victories.)
What they shouldn’t do, however, is put Democratic victories in some kind of blind spot. Responsible parties examine defeats and try to learn from them; they don’t pretend the losses never occurred.