Sep 21, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Democrats are on a special election winning streak

Illustration of confetti falling on a voting booth.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Democrats secured victory in two state-level special elections this week, extending an impressive winning streak that Biden campaign officials cited today as they appealed to supporters to stop panicking about polls.

Why it matters: Down-ballot, low-turnout state elections aren't necessarily a harbinger for national contests. But the trend is unmistakeable: In 30 special elections this year, Democrats have outperformed by an average of 11 points, according to a 538 analysis of each seat's base partisanship score.

  • The analysis doesn't take into account the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, city elections and ballot referendums where Democrats have also dominated — largely by campaigning on abortion rights.

Driving the news: In Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Democrats defended a one-seat majority in the state House for the fifth time this year, outperforming Biden's 2020 margin in an Allegheny County seat by eight points.

  • In New Hampshire, a Democrat won by 12 points in a district Trump narrowly carried in 2020, putting the party within one seat of ending the GOP's state government trifecta. The Republican who lost, Jim Guzofski, is an election denier who claimed "prophets" told him Trump won in 2020.

What they're saying: "You can keep talking about polls 14 months out, but this is what I've been looking at all year," tweeted Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina of the trend in special elections.

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