But there are exceptions to every rule. And what happened in Connecticut six days ago is that exception.
“I saw a preview of what may be coming in 2021 and 2022, and I just want to warn other Democrats just to not take anything for granted,” Blake Reinken, who managed the Democratic candidate’s losing campaign, told The Hill newspaper. “Now that Trump is gone for the most part, we have to fight double as hard to make sure that we protect our gains.”
The race was in a district that Joe Biden had won by 25 points over Donald Trump back in November 2020. (Hillary Clinton won the Greenwich-based district by 18 points in 2016.) The Republican candidate, however, eked out a win with just over 50% of the vote.
It marked the first state legislative seat in the country that had flipped from Democratic to Republican since Biden has been president, according to The Hill’s Reid Wilson.
And according to CNN’s Harry Enten, the Connecticut result was no one-off. Wrote Harry over the weekend:
“Across more than 30 special state legislative and federal elections during the Biden presidency, Republicans are doing 4 points better on average than former President Donald Trump did in these same districts last year. …
“… When you look at the first 17 special elections this year (through early April), the Republican overperformance over Trump was just a point. Examining the last 17 special elections, the overperformance has been 7 points. When you splice the data even further, Republicans have been outperforming the 2020 baseline by double-digits since the beginning of July.”
So it’s not just that Republicans have been over-performing Trump in special elections. It’s that their over-performance has been getting larger and larger of late.
For Democrats, who spent the last 24 hours fighting among themselves over what should have been a legislative slam dunk, these numbers and this trend line should be very, very worrisome.
Especially because history suggests that what is happening right now is what (almost) always happens in the first midterm election of a president.
Since 1946, the average seat loss for the president’s party is in the mid 20s. But more recent first-term midterm elections have been even more devastating for the president’s party. Republicans lost 40 House seats in the 2018 midterms, while Democrats lost 63 House seats in Barack Obama’s first midterm, in 2010.
Republicans need nothing like that sort of wave election to retake control of the House; Nancy Pelosi is speaker at the moment thanks to a paper-thin three-seat majority.
The Point: The Connecticut result isn’t determinative on its own. But when you consider it as part of the broader trend, it suggests that Democrats’ majority is in deep peril.