In this episode, we take a look at some special elections being held around the country, and explore what they may reveal about the 2018 midterm elections. We also check in on Colorado’s Democratic candidates for governor, now that two more have made it official.

Segment 1: What’s So Special About Special Elections?

  • Campaign watchers don’t have to wait long to attempt to gauge exactly how much Donald Trump will affect midterm elections around the country next year, as three special congressional elections will take place in the next two months: Kansas CD 4, Georgia CD 6, and Montana’s at-large Congressional seat.
  • FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten has a great analysis of what typically happens in special elections here. Basically, special congressional election results don’t vary all that much from the previous presidential vote in the district. Historically, the president’s party does a bit worse than its previous performance, and obviously how much worse depends upon the President’s current popularity.
  • With President Trump’s job approval at only 42%, what does that mean for these three races? Republicans are fortunate that they are all in red districts, but on one level that only increases the potential for an embarrassing loss. So let’s take a look one-by-one.
  • In Kansas’ 4th Congressional District we now have final results. Current State Treasurer Republican Ron Estes defeated civil rights attorney James Thompson by a 7-point margin. In the final days, the race garnered a surprising amount of attention as national Republicans rushed to aid Estes in what came to be perceived as a close race. The single-digit margin could be seen as a sign of increased Democratic strength in the age of Trump.
  • In Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, a crowded Republican field is vying to take on Democrat Jon Ossoff, whose “Make Trump Furious” campaign is a far better test of how far anti-Trump energy can carry Democrats than Thompson’s campaign in KS-04. This race has received significant national attention, and is the only one of the three that is being tracked by the Huffington Post’s Pollster. Ossoff is currently at 43%, which would have him easily advancing out of the primary, but assuming the Republicans close ranks around their top vote getter, falling well short in the general election.
  • Ossoff’s campaign is a textbook example of how special elections differ from regular congressional elections. He’s raised more than $8.3 million in a single quarter, capitalizing on help from Nancy Pelosi and other national Democrats in an attempt to score their first big win of the Trump era. Suffice to say that most Democratic challengers trying to win in red districts during next year’s midterms will not have those kind of resources.
  • He also isn’t actually running as a liberal firebrand in the model of Bernie Sanders, to try to tap as much energy as possible out of the anti-Trump resistance. He’s running as a centrist who criticizes both parties and vows to end wasteful government spending. This just shows the extent to which these special elections can take on a life of their own, with national media portrayals that don’t necessarily match the facts on the ground. If Ossoff is able to win this seat, it will be because he ran as the kind of moderate centrist candidate that Democrats will need to find more of in order to have a shot at winning back the House.
  • The third race, for Montana’s at-large Congressional seat, is also unique in that both candidates start off with solid name ID. Republican Greg Gianforte just came off an unsuccessful run for Governor and Democrat Rob Quist enjoys the status of a legendary folk singer within the state. In contrast to Ossoff in GA-6, Quist does not have much support from national Democrats (which, in Montana is probably a good thing for him), though Bernie Sanders may visit the state in a show of support. With Montana’s history of sometimes electing populist Democrats like current U.S. Senator Jon Tester, if Quist is able to pull off a surprise victory it wouldn’t necessarily have national implications that could carry over to next year.

Segment 2: Two More Democrats Jump in for Colorado Governor

  • Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter made a long-expected announcement that he’s entering the race for Colorado governor.
  • His announcement was followed on Monday by former Democratic state treasurer Cary Kennedy’s announcement that she too will join the race.
  • Kennedy is the first Democrat to announce who has previously held statewide office, though the initial coverage has been dominated by the bizarre manner in which she announced.