Donald Trump won another special House election last night. Actually, two of them. That makes him four-for-five this year.
Which gave Democrats two more demoralizing moral victories to moan over as they tally the $24 million they wasted trying to end the long-running GOP reign in Georgia’s Sixth District. And more in the South Carolina district of Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
None of this year’s special elections — Kansas, Montana, California, Georgia, South Carolina — saw a change in party control. But we still learned a lot about politics in mid-2017, heading for the 2018 midterms.
In Georgia, it wasn’t even close. Democrats and media allowed their blind disdain for Trump and misleading polls indicating a tight race to think they had a chance of filling the Tom Price House vacancy with Jon Ossoff, an ex-congressional staffer who looks more like a ninth-grade chemistry nerd. That didn’t work. More accurately, it failed.
Karen Handel, the familiar former secretary of state, finally won another race, attracting about 52% of the suburban Atlanta vote to the 48% of Ossoff, who didn’t even live in the district he sought to represent. As in Montana and Kansas, Democrats did succeed in nationalizing the runoff race, making it about Trump. He took the challenge and went all in with a Handel fundraiser and supportive tweets. Mike Pence showed up too.
Turns out, those Georgia voters may not love Trump, but they don’t love the abortion party even more.
Republicans — make a note of this as harbinger of the major theme you’ll hear in next year’s midterm elections cross-country — made the election about “San Francisco values,” as in Nancy Pelosi, the aged Democrat House minority leader.
She hoped Ossoff would crack the so-far impervious Trump base. After all, Trump barely carried that district last fall. That strategy didn’t work in Kansas and Montana. It didn’t work Tuesday in Georgia, at $55 million the most expensive House race in history.
And it didn’t work in South Carolina’s Fifth District either, where hard-line conservative state legislator Ralph Norman handily defeated Democrat Archie Parnell about 52%-48%. Mulvaney won there by larger margins, as did Price in Georgia. But Norman ran as a staunch Trump supporter and announced he intends to join the House Freedom Caucus.
Don’t fall for any media line about special elections being predictive of future elections, especially midterms 503 days away. History is a much stronger indicator. And history foretells Republicans losing their House majority next year.
In the last 20 midterms, the party of the incumbent president has lost seats in 18 of them, on average a loss of 33 seats. Pelosi’s party only needs to gain 24 seats to make her speaker again.
Worse for the GOP, pollster Glen Bolger calculates that when that president has an approval rating below 40%, those losses increase to 40 seats. Trump’s job approval this week is 40.3.