Special elections in solid red districts are tightening — and terrifying Republicans


The latest polling numbers confirm Republicans' worst fears: Upcoming special elections in traditionally red seats in Kansas and Georgia will be close races, and that could be very bad news for Paul Ryan's GOP-controlled Congress now — and especially in 2018.

The past few months have seen massive grassroots energy poured into Democratic candidates in traditionally red congressional districts that have not been competitive for decades.

In particular, Jon Ossoff has demolished expectations in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, and James Thompson has experienced a late surge in Tuesday's election for Kansas's 4th Congressional District, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announcing a last-minute phone canvassing operation.

The combination of these candidates' hard work and charisma, laughably incompetent responses by the Republican Party, and enthusiasm from the Democratic base has managed to keep these two Democrats in the running in usually safe red territory. And election analysts agree.

The Cook Political Report recently changed its ratings of these two races. Ossoff's race moved from "Lean Republican" to "Toss Up," which comes hot on the heels of the UVA Center for Politics giving it the same rating. Meanwhile, Thompson's race moved from "Likely Republican" to "Lean Republican." Only six days ago, Cook had this race as a "Solid Seat."

Republicans familiar with recent polling describe extremely high Democratic intensity and very low GOP enthusiasm in what is likely to be a very low turnout special. More than that, Estes appears to be swept up in a last-minute vortex of factors outside his control: Democrats' anger towards Trump, independents' anger towards Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP dissatisfaction with early administration failures. [...]

Even a single-digit finish in a seat like KS-04, with a Cook PVI score of R+15, would portend big trouble for Republicans in next week's special primary election in GA-06, which has a PVI score of R+8. There is a real chance Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is dramatically outspending the rest of the field while the main GOP contenders turn on each other, could hit 50 percent on April 18 and avoid a runoff. As such, we are moving GA-06 to Toss Up.

Cook's report underscores a critical point: Whatever happens in these races, the mere fact that places like Georgia and Kansas are even in play for Democrats is an early warning sign for Republicans that the public mood is turning against them. Nationwide, Republican leaders are incredibly unpopular, and historically, presidents with approval ratings as low as Trump's tend to see big midterm losses in the House.

Resistance to Trump and his party are already reshaping the electoral field, and if their popularity and support continues to fall, it is only a matter of time before we see red seats across the country start to turn blue.