The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Democrats are getting some very good news in special elections

Placeholder while article actions load

There were two more special elections on Tuesday, and there were two more very good results for Democrats. We're now at the point where the disappointment Democrats experienced in Georgia is looking like an aberration.

The two special elections Tuesday were held in state House districts in Oklahoma and New Hampshire. Both had gone for President Trump by double digits in 2016, according to numbers crunched by Daily Kos Elections, but both went for the Democrat on Tuesday by double digits.

In New Hampshire, a 17-point Trump win became a 12-point win for Democrat Charles St. Clair. In Oklahoma, an 11-point Trump win became a 20-point win for Democrat Jacob Rosecrants.

One of these results came in one of those hundreds of tiny state House districts in the Granite State (less than 2,300 votes!). And the other was in Oklahoma, where Democrats barely have a pulse. But each continued what is a very strong trend of Democrats winning elections in 2017.

According to data assembled by Daily Kos and mapped by Daniel Donner, Democrats have performed better than Hillary Clinton in 27 out of 35 congressional and state-legislative special elections held this year. And they've done better than President Barack Obama's 2012 margins in 25 out of 35.

They've also won a Republican-held seat a whopping one-fourth of the time — in six out of 24 opportunities. The GOP has no pick-ups in its 11 chances.

And often it hasn't been close: In 23 out of 35 races, Democrats have bettered Clinton's margin by double digits. In 12 races, they've done so by 20-plus points — i.e., turning a 10-point Clinton loss into a 10-point Democratic win.

The one glaring exception to all of this, of course, was the highest-profile special election of all — in Georgia's 6th Congressional District. Tens of millions of dollars flooded a suburban Atlanta district that Mitt Romney carried easily in 2012 but Trump narrowly won in 2016. In the end, it was a bad gamble; Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly underperformed Clinton in the runoff and Democrats were heartbroken.

But his is one of just seven of 35 special elections this year in which you can say that about Democrats. In every other congressional special election, they've done better than Clinton — by a lot, even if Republicans retained the seat, as they did in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina. Their record in state legislative races is increasingly sterling.

Maybe Republicans are better at winning when the spotlight is on a race like Georgia. Maybe we shouldn't read too much into a few dozen (mostly state-legislative) special elections when it comes to judging what might happen in the 2018 midterms. All that is fair.

But the fact is that the Georgia district was a tough one where they came up short. And the picture painted by the entirety of these special elections is far more encouraging for Democrats than it seemed the day after the Georgia runoff.

Kevin Uhrmacher contributed to this post.