Will the GOP’s special election jinx live on?

Eric Massa's fall hands Republicans a golden opportunity to pick up a House seat. History says they'll blow it

Topics: 2010 Elections, The Numerologist, Eric Massa, John Murtha, D-Pa.,

Will the GOP's special election jinx live on?Closeup of senior man voting on an optical scanner with people waiting in line.(Credit: Lisa F. Young)

Democratic Rep. Eric Massa’s resignation should trigger a special election in his district. This will make for a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans, since John McCain actually carried New York’s 29th District over Barack Obama in 2008. And Massa’s is only one of three Democratic-held seats that Republicans — at least on paper — should, in the coming months, have a decent chance of claiming in special elections.

But recent history suggests they shouldn’t get too excited.

Believe it or not, it’s been almost nine years since the GOP picked up a previously Democratic-held House seat through a special election. Democrats, by contrast, have won six GOP-held seats in special elections in that time. And it’s not as if the Democrats were picking off low-hanging fruit: All but one of those victories came in districts that vote reliably for Republicans at the presidential level.

There are several reasons for the Democrats’ special election success. The most obvious is that many of the pickups came when George W. Bush’s popularity was at its lowest and voters were eager to take out their frustrations on Republican candidates.

But the more recent GOP losses can also be chalked up to intra-party warfare. In 2008, for instance, the more conservative and less electable candidate managed to win the GOP nomination in three special elections. Each was then defeated by the Democratic candidate. And last fall in New York’s 23rd District, national movement conservatives helped elbow aside the establishment GOP’s pick, Dede Scozzafava, to make way for tea party favorite Doug Hoffman. Bush may be off the stage, but similar fissures could still haunt the GOP this year.

In addition to Massa’s seat, Republicans currently have at least a chance of picking up the late John Murtha’s seat in Pennsylvania, where a special election will be held on May 18; and the Hawaii seat vacated by Democrat Neil Abercrombie (only because that state’s unique winner-take-all special election rules could allow the lone Republican candidate to win with a small plurality of the vote).

Still, even though the national climate is quite favorable for them right now, there’s no guarantee that Republicans’ special election futility will end this year.

Colby Hamilton

David Jarman is a Seattle-based writer. He also writes under the nom de blog "Crisitunity" at Swing State Project.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>