Cheat Sheet Q&A: Can anything really be read into off-year special elections?

Cheat Sheet Q&A: Can anything really be read into off-year special elections?

Today's entry: Brian, it seems like the media is making a mountain out of a molehill regarding the Kansas election. You would think that the Republican would have lost by 8 points rather than winning by that number based on the media coverage. What say you?

Bottom Line: First, yes - perspective is key. Here are the facts about the Kansas special Congressional Election: 

  • The Republican won
  • The margin was 23% lower than the outcome in the same district in November for the Republican

So that's a notable change in a short period time. That being said is it necessarily predictive of massive shifts in the American electorate since November? That's where additional texture is needed. Too often media boils everything politically down to X's & O's - or in this case D's & R's. We all know that not all Democrats and Republicans are created equal, so it's important not to overlook the important candidate differences between the Republican in both of these races. In November a popular incumbent, Mike Pompeo, ran for re-election in his district and cruised to a 31 point victory (faring 1% better than Trump in the district). 

Conversely, the eight point winner from Tuesday Ron Estes, most recently worked within the Kansas Governor's administration. What's notable about that? Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has the 2nd lowest approval rating of any Governor in the country with a paltry 27% approval rating. Being tied closely with a woefully unpopular Governor doesn't exactly equitably compare to the former popular incumbent. So here's the thing for you to consider as to whether the Kansas special election was a barometer of a larger political shift. Is a 23% lower margin of victory in a district that Trump won by 30% more of a referendum on a candidate tied to a Governor with a 27% approval rating or President Trump? Nationally, President Trump's core support is off about 4% from where it was on Election Day. It would seem improbable that something significantly greater had occurred in this specific district.

We don't have a concrete answer but based on the way I framed it you can probably infer my inclination. So yes, I do think that there's probably a bit of media over-reaction (hope) relative to the facts of the election. 

If you have a topic or question you'd like me to address email me: 

Brian Mudd

Brian Mudd

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