Democrat Linda Belcher was just pronounced the winner of the special election in Kentucky’s House District 49, a seat that Donald Trump carried by a 72-23 margin in 2016 and that went 66-33 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Her 68-32 victory represents a ridiculous 45-point improvement on Hillary Clinton’s performance. In fuller context, it’s a little less ridiculous than that. Belcher had previously represented this district in the state legislature, lost a very narrow 50.4-49.6 race in 2016; then the man who defeated her, Dan Johnson, killed himself while under a cloud of sexual assault allegations. The GOP nominated Johnson’s widow and Belcher reclaimed her old seat.
Still, Belcher improved by 18 points on her own margin from just 15 months ago — a very clear sign of Democrats’ down-ballot recovery in the Trump era.
It’s amazing how much her messaging has improved in the last year and a half!
According to an extremely useful 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 14 races, Democrats are running 28 points ahead of Clinton and 14 points ahead of Barack Obama.
Historically speaking, special election results usually are somewhat predictive of midterm general election outcomes, though I don’t think anyone believes it’s realistic for Democrats to obtain a nationwide 45-point swing relative to Clinton’s numbers.
It’s remarkable how much less neoliberal the Dems have gotten since Trump was elected.
Seriously, has anyone who attributed near-apocalyptic importance to the question of which left-liberal would head the DNC and which would be the #2 because it was critical to the election prospects of the party concluded, consistently with this premise, that Tom Perez has been incredibly good at the job? Or can we just reach the (correct) conclusion that election results are largely determined by structural factors, the chair of the DNC is not a terribly important position, and using the contest as a pretext to dramatically re-litigate the 2016 primaries was rather dumb?