Republicans are in a lot of trouble.
On Tuesday night, Democrats flipped two more GOP-held legislative seats, raising the total number of pickups this cycle to six. Republicans, meanwhile, haven’t picked up a single seat in a contested election.
Since Trump’s election last November, Democrats have won 17 of the 35 congressional and state legislative special elections held all across the country that have featured one Democrat squaring off against one Republican, but the real magic number requires closer scrutiny.
Analysis of these special elections reveals that Democrats are consistently outperforming the presidential elections results from both 2016 and 2012. Democrats have beaten Hillary Clinton’s numbers in 28 of the 35 contested special elections this cycle, and they improved on Obama’s 2012 numbers in 25 of them. Compared to Clinton’s numbers, Democrats are performing an average of 13 percent better, and they’re even performing 9 percent better than Obama.
Even taken by themselves, Tuesday’s Democratic victories were remarkable. The New Hampshire seat Democrats flipped had repeatedly sent Robert Fisher to the state capitol, a Republican who achieved notoriety this year when he was revealed to have been a founder of (and frequent commenter on) the virulently misogynistic Reddit forum known as “The Red Pill.” Fisher was forced to resign in May after lying under oath about his involvement with the site.
Democrat Charlie St. Clair is the first Democrat to win this seat since 2012, even though Trump won this seat by 16 points just last fall. St. Clair’s 56-44 percent win marked a 28-point swing in Democrats’ favor in a seat that had actually grown more Republican since 2012: It barely favored Obama that year and voted for Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown in 2014 by a 52-48 margin.
Democrats’ Oklahoma pickup was similarly a stunner. Oklahoma is a reliably red state, and House District 46 also had been reliably GOP, consistently sending a Republican to the statehouse since 1995. Democrat Jacob Rosecrants, a teacher, public education advocate, and union member, actually lost this seat just last fall, 60-40 percent. On Tuesday, he literally flipped the script: Rosecrants won this special election 60-40 percent.
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Remarkably, this pickup was the third for Democrats in Oklahoma this year. Republicans tried to attribute their previous two losses to the fact that Democrats were replacing scandal-plagued GOPers, that flimsy excuse doesn’t hold here—the Republican who formerly held this seat resigned to take a position with the local Chamber of Commerce.
These pickups follow the aforementioned two flips in the Oklahoma House and Senate in July, and in May, Democrats flipped another state House seat in New Hampshire and a state Assembly seat in New York. In all six of these pickups, the Democrat not only won but also over-performed the presidential numbers numbers last fall by double digits, by margins that range from 11 percent to 39 percent. And while everyone loves a sexy pickup, Democrats have also defended key seats—many of them very difficult holds—in the Iowa, Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, and South Carolina legislatures.
So Democrats are not only winning by flipping seats from Republican to Democratic hands, but they're also forcing Republicans to scramble, because even when the GOP hangs on, it's often just barely clinging to historically red seats in previously uncompetitive districts.
Republicans can’t afford to continue struggling like this if they hope to hold on to majorities in state legislatures and the U.S. House this cycle—including in Virginia’s hotly contested elections for its state House this November.