Amidst a backdrop of rising international tensions over these last days, Congressional districts in Kansas and Georgia held special elections. These elections happen with some frequency, often triggered when a sitting representative ends his or her term early to pursue a different job. They are typically dismissed as a minor news story because in most cases, the replacement politician is from the same party as the outgoing leader, and the balance of power in Washington remains the same. This was also the case recently in both Kansas and Georgia, where Republicans replaced Republicans.,
But the question is whether the rather different results from the two states reveal that the GOP may be in trouble in 2018, or that little has changed since Donald Trump’s victory last November
Representing the 4th Congressional District of Kansas, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) vacated his seat in the House to serve as the new director of the CIA. His replacement, Ron Estes (R-KS), won reelection with a comfortable 7% margin of victory over his Democrat challenger, James Thompson. At first glance, nothing about this appears particularly noteworthy. But when you consider the 2016 election results, it becomes apparent that the result could be viewed as troubling for the GOP.
Like Estes, Donald Trump also won the 4th district by a comfortable margin. His victory buffer? A whopping 27%! Similarly, Pompeo won his 2016 election by an even larger 30% margin. The fact that Estes took the district with a margin of victory 20% lower than what he historically should have enjoyed was a matter of legitimate concern for the GOP. That is, until the results came in from Georgia.
Democrats poured a record amount of money into Tuesday’s special congressional election in Georgia’s sixth district, hoping to embarrass President Trump. But their neophyte candidate, Jon Ossoff, who finished atop a crowded field, came up short of the majority required for outright victory, and will now face a run-off as an underdog against Republican Karen Handel.
Ossoff finished with 48% of the vote – almost thirty points ahead of his closest competitor – and three other Democrats picked up another one percent, but the Dems’ 49% total was still outpaced by the 51% accumulated among eleven GOP candidates. That two point margin actually exceeds Trump’s one point win over Hillary Clinton in the district.
Unlike in Kansas, this result suggests that Democrats have failed to gain strength since their devastating defeat in the 2016 elections.
So the political climate may not have changed much in the five months since the 2016 elections. And with Democrats playing defense in next year’s Senate races, Republicans are feeling optimistic. But let us recall that Hillary Clinton and the left believed they were invulnerable as well, and we all know how that turned out.