Home 2017 Races A Thought and a Question about the Conor Lamb Race

A Thought and a Question about the Conor Lamb Race


The thought is this: I don’t think we should think of what this race shows in terms of indicating an R + 20 Blue Wave in the big picture. 

Clearly, there is a big swing happening all over the country, as shown by one special election after another. But this race exaggerates the difference in strength between red and blue because the blue candidate in this race was stronger than the red one.

  1. The Democratic side was bolstered by having a candidate especially well-suited to doing well with a conservative electorate– former Marine, former prosecutor.
  2. The Republican side was hampered by having a candidate who was weaker generally, and hurt by his having an anti-union history in a district with many union households.

Not that I know how much below 20 the swing would be — because of the Blue Wave — if the candidates were equally strong of kind.

If I had to guess, I’d guess that the height of the wave at this point is closer to 15.


The question is this: How much of this Blue Wave comes from these three different categories?

  1. How much of it reflects that the Democratic base has been activated by the dark spectre of Trump, and so they win by turning out in greater numbers than is typical for Democrats?
  2. How much of it is people who voted for Trump — and were part of that +20 — who have switched their views from supporting to opposing him?
  3. And how much is it people who have found the Trump presidency demoralizing enough that they don’t feel motivated to trouble themselves to get to the polls and vote.

(*From what I’ve heard, those who form #2 are more like swing voters than like Republicans breaking ranks.)

I’d guess there’s some information that bears on how that breaks down. But I haven’t seen it.

  • DCStrangler

    It’s #1. People are pissed

  • Combo of Dems activated by resistance to Trump and some Republicans not “feelin’ it” for Trump, at least not enough to head out and vote for Trump’s candidate…

  • Perseus1986

    He also ran on local issues. He was heavily endorsed by local unions and many people said that they still support Trump, but Lamb was the clear choice for preserving their pensions. Dems would do well in 2018 IF they field candidates that are able to translate broad national and international trends to clear consequences for their constituencies rather than candidates that regurgitate DCCC platitudes.

  • Andy Schmookler

    Did anyone do an exit polling with that Lamb-Saccone election?

    What I’d be interested in having asked are two questions: 1) Who did you vote for today? and 2) Who did you vote for in 2016 for President. I’m wondering how many Lamb-Trump combos there would be.

    It’s great if the Trump base gets demoralized. I’d also like to see it suffering from serious attrition. I’ve seen some in the polling, but I’d also like to see if its showing up in the voting.

    • Esther Ferington
      • Andy Schmookler

        Thank you, Esther. Some interesting numbers. The fact that 89% of voters in that district thought health care either the “most important” issue, or a “very important” issue is striking. What we saw about the health care issue in the Virginia elections seems to be true more broadly. After all those years of “repeal,” it seems that this issue is a winner for Democrats.

  • Kenneth Ferland

    Digging into the numbers show that increased Democratic turnout, not flipping Republicans is how he won. The GOP spin that he was conservative Democrat (even going to the laughable point of calling someone who supports Roe ‘against abortion’) is to pretend that their base actually came to the polls but still voting conservative. The reality is our base is mobilized and voting.

  • stuckinthewoods

    In some ways this puts the VA race between Roem and Marshall to mind. She ran on local issues and was the stronger candidate.

    • LitShips

      100% agree!

  • frankoanderson

    Most of this was the Blue Wave. But there were some voters, both registered Democrats and Republicans, who supported/still support Trump BUT they are unhappy with Congress and are looking for a change. Conor had to appeal to those voters too, by steering clear of the Trump bashing that Dems like us engage in. Obviously the strategy would be different in a district that does not still support Trump.

  • We take a blue wave for granted to our detriment, if we get complacent or lazy. What this race shows is that there is definitely a sea change. Two things happened. Demoralized Republicans stayed home – Saccone under performed Trump in 2016. Energized Democrats came out in greater number for Lamb – he outperformed Clinton because of that energy. There’s a definite enthusiasm gap that is working to our advantage. But we still have to work for the votes, including focusing on local kitchen table issues that constituents care about. And those issues may be different in San Francisco than they are in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD.

    Republicans mostly did not switch sides. Some swing voters did. But it was mostly turnout for a candidate that was a good match for the district, focused on bread and butter issues, and got his voters to the polls. You know, the basics.