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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Not So Special Election

With the results of the special election in Georgia now clear, it may be worth taking a look at the supposed big swings that have been shown in the 17 races completed so far.  First, for those who don't know, the Georgia outcome is that the top two finishers are going to a run off in June.  Although the Democrat yesterday got about 48% of the vote, it is not at all clear that he will be able to win in June.  Total votes for Republicans still were higher than total votes for Democrats.  Turn out will be the key.  Also, for what it is worth, Trump won this district by 1% over Clinton last November, so the Republicans outperformed the President yesterday.  Of course, the long time congressman for the district, Dr. Tom Price did much better last November, and the Republicans underperformed his numbers.  All told, the results don't tell us much.

But let's get back to the special election trends.  The truth is that nothing much has changed despite all the media hype.  Of the 17 special elections to date in 2017, only one has resulted in a change of party.  That was a state legislative seat in Louisiana.  On average over the last four years, special elections end up switching parties for roughly three seats out of about 45 total elections.  That means that the flip of the one seat is right in line with prior norms.  Another way to put this is that there is no evidence of a big wave of anti-Trump feelings sweeping the country.  There are many with such feelings, but those are people who voted for Hillary anyway.  There's no evidence in the group of special elections that Trump voters are abandoning him despite media clamor to the contrary.

The next special election for Congress is a statewide race in Montana.  No doubt we will see big hype first, but my guess is that we will then see a new Republican member of Congress.

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