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Why National Democrats Can Be Pleased With Special State Senate Victory In Wisconsin

January 17, 2018

Wisconsin is rightly buzzing over the election news from Tuesday. Democrats picked up their first state legislative seat in 2018 as the party’s candidate won a special election for a state senate seat in Wisconsin’s 10th District.

Though Donald Trump had won the rural district by about 17 points in the 2016 presidential election, Democratic nominee Patty Schachtner defeated her Republican opponent for the open seat by a comfortable margin of about 10 points. The seat had been in GOP hands for 17 years.

The news is setting off alarm bells for Republicans, who are increasingly worried about a Democratic wave in the 2018 midterms. Prior to Wisconsin’s powerful showing there was already growing evidence of what is keeping Republicans up at night.  Wisconsin voters have now only added to the heft of these findings.

  • In the 74 special elections for both state legislatures and Congress across the country since Trump won that they tracked, Democrats performed, on average, 11 points better than they did in those areas in the 2016 presidential election.
  • While the average movement was in Democrats’ favor, there was a fair amount of variation. In 49 of those races, the Democratic candidate’s margin was better than Hillary Clinton’s in 2016. In 23 races, the Republican candidate did better than Trump. In the other two, it was about a tie.
  • Democrats aren’t just running up the score in already-blue areas. The party made many of its biggest improvements over the 2016 presidential in districts Trump won in the South and Midwest. This goes to show that the 2016 elections don’t at all seem to have heralded doom for Democrats in regions that tipped to Trump — in fact, it’s many Republican-held seats in those regions that suddenly seem to be flipping to Democrats for the first time in years.
  • Overall, 14 of those elections have resulted in a seat flipping from Republican to Democrat, compared to just a single one that flipped from Democrat to Republican (a state Senate seat in Massachusetts). The seats flipping to Democrats famously include the Alabama US Senate seat now occupied by Doug Jones, but also eight state house seats and 5 state Senate seats.
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