Democrat Mike Revis shocked many when he pulled out a victory in a deep-red Missouri district that went for Trump by 28 points in 2016.
Mike Revis won a 3-point victory in House District 97, which President Donald Trump had won by 28 points. That 31-point swing relative to the 2016 election was extraordinarily large, but actually not the greatest swing of the night. Over in House District 144, Democrats took a relatively narrow 53-47 loss in a district that Trump carried by 59 points. The other two GOP holds in Missouri also had large swings, with Democrats outperforming Hillary Clinton by 18 points in one race and by 25 points in another.
Special election results have historically been good indicators of what is to come in midterm elections, and with wins in Virginia, New Jersey, Alabama and now Missouri, Democrats are more confident than ever that a blue wave is coming in 2018.
🙌 🎉 Huge news out of Missouri: Democrat Mike Revis just WON a special election for a Republican-held state House seat! His victory is a monumental upset in a district that backed Donald Trump by nearly 28 points (!!!), and it shows that voters across America want Democrats!
But critics warn that while the special elections may be temporary good news for Democrats, the larger picture is much more complicated. Trump may pose an unique opportunity for Democrats, but it will still not be enough for them to retake Congress in 2018. Dan Balz argues in the Washington Post that the numbers are just not in the Democrats' favor―from gerrymandered districts to continued division between the left wing and the more moderate wing of the party.
Democrats see evidence in polls and focus groups of an electorate receptive to moving in their direction [...] But there are other factors that could frustrate the Democrats, from the state of the economy to obstacles created by structural aspects of a polarized electorate to the peculiar ways in which the president defies or at least confounds some traditional measures of public opinion.
Part of this was through redistricting and the success of Republicans in the states to draw lines most favorable to them. Part of it has come through the sorting out of the population. Democrats are now heavily clustered in urban areas; Republicans are spread more evenly elsewhere. That makes it more difficult for Democrats to compete in some congressional districts.
In order for Democrats to flip the House in 2018, they would need a net gain of 24 seats, and as David Wasserman suggests in FiveThirtyEight, the congressional map is extremely bias against them.
Democrats have been cursed by a terrible Senate map in 2018: They must defend 25 of their 48 seats while Republicans must defend just eight of their 52.
Beyond that, there are currently 12 Democrats fighting to hold their seats in districts that voted for Trump in 2016. The numerical reality of 2018 poses a major problem to Democrats, but so do divisions within the party. Nearly a year after the 2016 election, the far-left contingent of the party is still hell-bent on pushing extremely progressive candidates and shunning any politician they deem too "corporate."
But according to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats currently have a generic ballot advantage over Republicans.