In 25 special elections since April 1, Democrats have been outperforming the partisan baseline based on the last two presidential elections (or just the 2016 election in two Alabama special elections because of a lack of data) by an average of only 6 percentage points. The average is skewed by a few outliers. In the median special election since April 1, Democrats have been outperforming the partisan baseline by only about half a point.
In other words, Democrats aren’t doing any better in special elections over the last two months than the generic congressional ballot would suggest that they should be doing. In fact, their overperformance in recent special elections has been about half as high as it had been in all special elections since January 2017.
This past Tuesday we saw Democrats lose by over 50 points in two special elections in Arkansas. Just last week, we saw a Republican pick up a Democrat-held seat in Pennsylvania’s 48th District in the state House. That win received considerably less media attention than the Democratic pickup in the 178th District in that same body.