Last night, there were four special elections in Missouri, and Democrats outperformed in all four, winning one. According to Daily Kos Elections, each of these races for the Missouri State House was in extremely Republican territory, with the most Democratic-leaning seats each voting for Trump in 2016 by a 28-point margin (61-33 and 64-36, if you want to get technical). The other two were 71-24 and 80-16 (yikes).
Hmm, you might be thinking. Why talk about these seats in terms of Trump-Clinton and not in terms of how the last Democrats to run for these seats performed? Well, that’s because in 2016, Democrats couldn’t even find candidates to contest any of these four races, effectively handing the GOP some free victories. But in the 2018 specials, Democrats outperformed their margins by quite a bit. Per Daily Kos:
Missouri HD-39: Republicans held this seat, with Peggy McGaugh defeating Democrat Ethan Perkinson by a 64-36 margin. Donald Trump won here 71-24.
Missouri HD-97: Democrats scored a huge pickup in this district, as Mike Revis defeated Republican David Linton by a 52-48 margin. Trump carried this seat 61-33.
Missouri HD-129: Republican Jeff Knight defeated Democrat Ronna Ford by a 69-31 margin in this 80-16 Trump district.
Missouri HD-144: Republicans held on to this seat, though Chris Dinkins only defeated Democrat Jim Scaggs by a 53-47 margin. This was a huge 53-point swing from 2016, when Donald Trump dominated 78-19 here.
Let’s be clear: This was not a consequential race, and Republicans still have a comfortable 115-48 supermajority in the chamber. But the average swing among all four races was 32.5 points toward the Democrats. That’s impressive even when you factor in how special elections are quirky affairs with low turnout. But if you’ve noticed that the Republicans have eaten into the Democrats’ once considerable generic ballot lead, this should be heartening. And it comes on the heels of Democrats flipping GOP-held seats in other red-to-purple states like Oklahoma, Georgia, and Wisconsin. (So far in this cycle, 35 seats have gone from red to blue, versus only four in the other direction.)
It’s significant in another way, too. Missouri has trended farther and farther away from the Democrats since 2000, when it was still considered not just a swing state but a bellwether. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a moderate Missouri Democrat, is in a tough re-election fight this year — and it doesn’t look like her opponent in November will be the guy who said women should just go back to making dinner because feminists have “nasty-snaked filled heads.”
And yeah, we know this has nothing to do with the Bay Area whatsoever — except that with a near-total absence of Republican held-seats in our region, many NorCal politics junkies have few fights to cheer on or get involved with. You could always volunteer with the Sister District Project and channel that surplus enthusiasm in a constructive way.