When Moral Victories Aren’t Victories

The Left Wing is in a tizzy because the special election to replace Mike Pompeo ended up closer than expected:

Republican Ron Estes beat back a surprisingly strong challenge from an unheralded and underfunded Democratic challenger to claim a special election victory in Kansas’ 4th district on Tuesday night.

A win is a win — and Republicans avoided the catastrophic outcome of losing in a congressional district where President Donald Trump won by 27 points last November. But in Estes’ victory there are warning signs for Republicans preparing for the first midterm election of the Trump presidency in 2018.

Let’s count up the number of winds the Democrats had at their back: Brownback is one of the most unpopular governors in the country; Estes was his treasurer and Brownback budget management is a big reason he’s unpopular; Trump is unpopular, currently at 42% approval in RCP’s poll-of-polls; the Democrats didn’t put a lot of money but they did focus on this as a potential pickup. And they still lost by about seven points.

The Democrats are very big on these “we almost won” things. But ultimately, a win is a win. The Republicans keep the seat and will likely keep it in the near future. It shows you how utterly beaten the Democrats are at a national level that a seven-point loss can be spun as a turning of the tide.

Is this a warning for 2018? Sure. But it’s no more a warning than Trump’s poll numbers and the general discontent out there. Every politician should be in fear of losing his job. But predicting 2018 is foolish at this point. At this point two years ago, Clinton was supposed to crush Trump by twenty points (actually, she was supposed to crush Jeb Bush). The 2018 election will be decided by what the economy is doing and how well Trump is doing. A small Kansas election is a much of a harbinger as … well, Clinton’s one-time 60+ approval rating.

Update: I did want to add one note. Brownback is unpopular because his “cut taxes and uh, something something supply side” economic agenda didn’t work. He deserves criticism for that. But so do the liberal governors who have almost bankrupted their states as well, notably Dannel Malloy, who is happily driving Connecticut right into a brick wall and is the second most unpopular governor in America. Are we going to hear about how elections are referenda on the liberal economic agenda?

I won’t hold my breath.

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