Tuesday, June 20, 2017

He's No Frank Underwood

Two special elections are happening today: one in the 6th Congressional district of Georgia - the race receiving the most attention - and one in the 5th Congressional district of South Carolina, which happens to be the home district of fictional politician, Frank Underwood of Netflix's House of Cards. And Democrat Archie Parnell seems to be having a great time highlighting this connection. Check out this campaign ad:

Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight explains why this special election matters, despite receiving less attention:
Voters in the South Carolina 5th are choosing between Republican Ralph Norman, a former state representative, and Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs managing director who has been using ads parodying Underwood to draw attention to his campaign.

[T]his is not the type of district where Democrats tend to be competitive. It’s not even the type of district where they need to be competitive to win the House next year. Democrats need a net gain of only 24 seats from the Republicans to do that. And there are 111 districts won by Republican House candidates in 2016 that leaned more Democratic than the South Carolina 5th.

There hasn’t been a lot of polling of the South Carolina race, but what we do have shows that Parnell is outperforming the district’s default partisan lean, just not by nearly enough.

Even if Norman wins, as expected, we will still learn something about the state of U.S. politics. As I’ve written before, when one party consistently outperforms expectations in special elections in the runup to a midterm election, that party tends to do well in those midterms.

So keep an eye on how much Parnell loses by (assuming he loses). The closer Norman comes to beating Parnell by 19 points (or more) — the default partisan lean of the district — the better for the Republican Party. A Parnell loss in the low double digits, by contrast, would be consistent with a national shift big enough for Democrats to win the House.

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