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Sunday, June 25, 2017

So Which Precedent Do We Use?

There's an article in New York magazine talking about the big "victory" the Democrats got from their recent loss in the special election in Georgia.  It's the usual stuff about how close Democrats came in a solid red district.  Of course, they still lost and losing doesn't count.  But what did the GOP's candidate 4% victory margin really mean?

It raises the question of which precedent to use.  New York magazine, of course, points to the victory last November of Tom Price in the congressional race.  Price won by 23%, so a 4% margin is much, much smaller.  Others, point to the Trump victory over Hillary Clinton in this district by just over 1% in the same election, so the GOP's 4% margin is much better.  Which is the proper benchmark to use?

The reality is that there is no real answer to this question, but there is still much to say on the point.  Dr. Price had been representing the district for a while, so he had all the advantages of an incumbent.  That should add something like 5% to his vote total, something that would raise his margin by 10%.  On top of that, you have the reality that the Democrats didn't really contest the district last November.  That too added to the margin of victory for the GOP.  If that failure to run a credible candidate or to campaign vigorously led to another 5-7% margin shift, then in a strongly contested race without an incumbent, the margin would have been between 6-8%.  The 4% margin that the GOP won in the special election is right in line with that.  These figures are just more numbers that are being used to justify a result, but they are as good as any other numbers.

The real truth is that the Georgia special election showed us that there has not really been a big shift in the electorate since last November.  Democrats may convince themselves that I am wrong and that there's been a big shift.  That won't make it so, however.  Indeed, the Democrats are likely to be sorely disappointed if they just rely on some sort of anti-Trump fervor to win in 2018.  They will still need a real program that appeals to American voters, and that is something that they just do not have as of yet.

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