Republican Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist in a Montana special election last night. He also apologized for beating up a Guardian reporter. But he still won, and the altercation with Ben Jacobs seems to have had little or no effect, in part because over half the votes had been cast via early voting and in part because Republicans in Montana are apparently rubes who thought it was great that their candidate beat up a reporter.
That’s the bad news. That’s all I want to say about the bad news.
Here’s the good news, if you’re looking ahead to 2018.
Rob Quist lost by only 6 points in a district where Donald Trump won by 20. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, this district is Very Red. There are 120 Red districts that are less Red than this Montana at-large district. Based on the demographics, a typical Republican would defeat a typical Democrat by 11 points. The Republicans won by 16 points in 2016; 15 in 2014; 11 in 2012; 27 points in 2010; and 32 points in 2008. In other words, Republicans have enjoyed huge, huge wins in this district for the last decade.
Quist lost by 6 points, even though he was a very weak candidate who had a lot of baggage (granted, he was also running against a weak candidate).
But, let’s say conservatively, that Quist and Gianforte are evenly matched, and where a typical Republican would win by 11 points, this Republican won only by 6. That means that the national political climate is swinging toward the Democrats by around 5 points.
So, in that most conservative of estimates, where Democrats gain 5 points in each race nationally because their President is bonehead, the Democrats would take back 53 seats in the 2018 midterms. The Democrats need only a net gain of 24 seats. Therefore, even assuming that only half of the Districts get a 5 point swing, the Democrats can still regain the House.
Keep in mind, also, that we are still a year and a half away from the midterm elections, and Donald Trump continues daily damage to his Presidency and the Republican party.
Even more encouraging is this: The Georgia 6th district is +8 for the Republicans, meaning that a typical Republican running against a typical Democrat in that district wins by 8 points. In polls right now, the Democrat Jon Ossoff is leading by 7 points. That’s a 15 point swing.
Strictly mathematically speaking, the Democrats only need a TWO POINT swing in every district to regain 25 seats and take back the House.
In other words, news of out of Montana last night was dispiriting, but the broader national trend as we head toward 2018? It looks very positive.