Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Democrats Are Doing Well in Special Elections

Last Tuesday, Democrat Hal Rafter flipped a Republican seat in the 400-member New Hampshire state House. If the Democrat wins an upcoming special House election in a deep-blue district, the House will be tied at 198-198, with two independents and two vacancies. This could end the Republican trifecta in New Hampshire.

Rafter's district is R+6, yet Rafter won by 12 points. In other words, he overperformed the fundamentals of his district by 18 points. Does this mean anything? By itself, no. But there have been many special elections for state legislative seats all year and on the average, Democrats are overperforming district fundamentals by 11 points averaged over 30 special elections. That's a lot.

As an example, in Pennsylvania, a key swing state, there have been seven special elections this year for the legislature. The Democrats overperformed the district's "local PVI" by an average of 17 points. Of the 30 special elections nationwide, Democrats overperformed the baseline in 26 of them and underperformed in four of them. Does this predict anything? Well, in the three previous election cycles, special elections have been a good indicator of the popular vote for the House the next time—except that they have overpredicted how well the Democrats would do by about 3 points. If this holds in 2024, the Democrats will win the popular vote for the House in 2024 by 8 points. That would be enough to flip dozens of competitive seats. There are nine Republicans in House districts that are D+1 to D+5 and four more in EVEN districts. Another 24 are in R+1 to R+5 districts. If the Democrats win the popular House vote by 8 points, all 37 seats would be competitive and many would fall.

Now imagine what will happen if the House Republicans shut the country down. That's only going to make Republican chances much worse. Also, in a presidential year, Democratic turnout goes up because there are a lot of marginal Democratic voters who can't be bothered to vote even in the midterms, let alone special elections for a state House seat, but will get out to vote for a president. All of this said, as always, in politics, a week is a long time. (V)

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