ATLANTA — Democratic voters were more enthusiastic than Republicans in nearly a dozen federal special elections since President Donald Trump took office, an Associated Press analysis found, giving party leaders hope that even a series of narrow losses in GOP territory bodes well for them in November.
With the special elections now concluded ahead of the fall midterms, an AP review of nine House races and an Alabama special Senate election showed Democratic candidates consistently outperforming Republicans compared to the two parties’ usual vote totals in regular general elections.
The strong Democratic turnout is a key factor fueling the party’s hopes of regaining control of the House in November for the first time in eight years. It’s particularly significant because Democrats often struggle to turn out their voters when a presidential candidate isn’t on the ballot. The special election voting numbers could signal a change heading into the fall.
The latest indicator came Tuesday in Ohio, where Republican Troy Balderson holds a narrow lead over his Democratic rival, Danny O’Connor, setting up a potential recount in a suburban and small-town congressional district that President Donald Trump won by more than 11 percentage points and that Republicans have held since 1980.
The AP review went beyond percentage totals and compared special election raw vote totals to what Republicans and Democrats received from the same electorates in 2016. The methodology measures candidates’ performance as a percentage of what they could expect in a presidential year when turnout is highest, with the results suggesting which party’s coalition is more engaged and excited about the election cycle.
In Ohio, for example, Balderson’s 101,500-plus votes amount to less than half of Trump’s total in the district and just 40 per cent of what former Rep. Pat Tiberi received in his last re-election. O’Connor, meanwhile, pulled in almost 62 per cent of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 totals and almost 90 per cent of what the last Democratic candidate drew alongside the presidential race.
Altogether, Democrats got a higher proportion than Republicans of the party’s usual presidential vote in eight out of 11 elections. They exceeded Republicans in 10 out 11 races when comparing the special election totals to the most recent House or Senate race involving the same electorate.
Special elections are not a perfect predictor of November, but if those enthusiasm gaps hold for dozens of more fundamentally competitive seats in November, Democrats would stand a strong chance of emerging with the House majority and be poised for statehouse gains, as well.
The data tracks with high-profile special election outcomes ahead of the 2010 midterms when Republicans flipped control of the House and many state legislatures. This year, the trends are giving the GOP pause.
“Obviously, this is a tough environment for Republicans,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC devoted to defending House Republicans’ 23-seat majority. An obviously enthusiastic Democratic base, Bliss said, puts the burden on Republican incumbents and open-seat candidates “to give the voters a reason to vote for them.”
Trump mocked Democratic optimism this week on …read more