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Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Meaning of Special Elections

It's been a few days since the Montana special election results came in with Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate, prevailing by 7%.  So does this show anything about the nation as a whole?  Do any of the special elections held so far this year show anything about the nation as a whole? 

The answer to this question changes depending on whom you ask.  Over at Vox, they ran an article about how the Montana results were great news for Democrats.  The Democrats, of course, lost, but the reporter at Vox said that they came closer than usual.  On the other hand, I read an article at Town Hall that points out how the Democrat/media endless attack on President Trump has not switched any of these congressional seats decided so far this year.  That means that the GOP must be doing well according to the article.  The actual truth is something different and here it is:  so far, the special elections really haven't show that anything has changed since November.  Since the GOP won last November, that's good news for them.  The problem with claiming it as good news though is that the special elections are distorted moments in time in single districts that result in much lower turnout than a general election.  As a result, we really cannot tell what would happen in a general election were it held today.

The reality that there is no demonstrable trend of change in the special elections has not stopped the Democrats from claiming that there is a trend in their favor.  The other night, I actually saw someone billed as a "Democrat strategist" who claimed a nationwide trend because the Dems picked up a seat in the New Hampshire legislature.  This would be ridiculous if the seat were in any other state, but in New Hampshire, the claim is worse than ridiculous.  There are about 1.3 million people in New Hampshire but they have the largest state legislative body in the nation.  There are 400 seats in the lower house (for which the election took place.)  That means that the average district has 3250 people and maybe 2000 voters at most.  That is such a small district that a change in party in just one is meaningless.

It is worth noting that so far in 2017, none of the Congressional races have changed party in special elections.  In state races, there was one GOP pick up in Louisiana and two by the Dems, one each in NY and NH.

There may be a trend that becomes evident at some point, but right now, it seems nothing has changed since last November.

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