Since Donald Trump became President, his Democrat opponents have dominated a spate of special elections, thanks in no small part to a remarkable surge in enthusiasm and turnout. Many of us firmly believe this ‘Blue Wave’ will carry them to a majority in the House of Representatives in November. Tonight, we will get the best indication yet of it’s scale.
It is remarkable that the race for Pennsylvania’s 18th District is even a talking point, let alone a close betting heat. This district voted for Trump over Clinton by 20% and is very conservative on most issues. In the early stages the Republicans were backed down to 1.28 (78%) for a ninth straight win here but tonight that rating fell briefly to just 40% before resettling around even money.
Gold-standard poll drives Betfair market to flip
The market moves are a direct response to polling data – in particular a 6% lead for Conor Lamb in today’s Monmouth survey. Although the previous trend had shown a swing towards the Democrat, Rick Saccone generally maintained a clear if declining lead. None of the pollsters concerned, however, carry anything like the weight of Monmouth.
Leaving aside the polling trends, all recent history suggests Lamb is very much the underdog. During the Trump era, Democrats have outperformed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance by around 13-14%. This one requires 20, or 17 even compared to Obama’s performance against Romney in 2012. P-18 has the second oldest electorate of any district in the state and the Trump swing here was among the party’s top third in the country. His MAGA rhetoric worked a charm in this pivotal state and one would expect his steel tariffs to also play well.
Democrat turnout is surging everywhere during the Trump era
Equally though, it is far from clear that Trump supporters are as motivated to flock to the polls for a GOP insider that he merely endorses. That hasn’t been the case elsewhere. Rather, the consistent theme across special elections in all types of district has been marked Democrat overperformance. Opposition parties are usually much better motivated and the response to Trump has been a huge rise in Democrat activism and engagement across the country. Look at the turnout for their primaries in Texas last week, for example.