Special Elections Show Democrats Need More Than anti-Trump Message to Win in 2018

Tuesday's special congressional elections in Georgia and South Carolina provide teachable moments for Texas Democrats.It won't be easy to flip Republican districts in 2018.The reality in American politics is that House districts are drawn so tightly to favor one party that beating incumbents is near impossible.It doesn't matter how many times you toss Donald Trump's name in the mix, or how intense the resistance is to the controversial president's policies. Trying to win on the other party's turf is usually a losing proposition.Republicans have gone four-for-four in special congressional elections under Trump, and that record is not surprising. These are red districts where Trump picked cabinet members because he knew the GOP would likely win the contests for the seats they vacated.In Georgia's Congressional District 6, Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff by about 13,000 votes in the most expensive House race (over $50 million) in American history. The GOP has held the seat for more than 50 years, and remarkably Handel is the first woman ever elected to Congress from Georgia.It was a tough fight, but she won.Democrats will have a better chance in 2018, when they can aim at incumbents with records to exploit. But they need a message beyond bashing Trump.To that end, Democrats in the Lone Star State are trying to saddle Republicans, not only with Trump, but the policies of Texas Republicans like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov, Greg Abbott and even House Speaker Joe Straus.And they will use issues like healthcare to mount a campaign against incumbents like Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas.Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Sessions'' Congressional District 32 and the demographics of the district have become more favorable to Democrats.But the trick for Texas Democrats is to get their base voters out during midterm elections, when Republicans typically perform better.Nationally, the party in power takes losses in midterm years, but that doesn't necessary apply in the gerrymandered districts of Texas.Congressional District 32 is the closest things to a swing district in North Texas and the contest there will test whether Democrats are emerging and Trump is an albatross.For their part, Democrats need to consider offering fresh alternatives to Trump. New party leaders must emerge.At a Dallas rally last month, anti-Trump Democrats promised to take Congress back from Republicans and restore Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.It's doubtful that returning to the Pelosi era is a big seller in Republican-leaning districts. The lack of new leaders gives Republicans the ability to turn elections from a referendum on Trump to a partisan contest against the likes of Pelosi and other stalwarts unpopular with Republicans and some independents.Handel didn't mention Trump during her campaign, and it worked.Win or lose, 2018 could be a strong rebuilding year for Democrats, especially if they can channel the anti-Trump intensity into an even more compelling message to voters.But as Tuesday showed, Republicans are going to win their share of races, even if the margins of victory aren't as large as in previous cycles.That's how the maps are drawn.  Continue reading...

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