2008 Special Elections

Democrats win three special elections in Republican districts
for the first time in more than 30 years.

Voters in "one of the safest Republican areas in the nation" delivered a mandate for change with Democrat Travis Childers' win in Mississippi.

After three consecutive special election defeats in districts President Bush won twice easily, it is abundantly clear the American people shut the door on the special interest driven agenda of the Republican Party.

Travis Childers Wins in Mississippi

May 13th: Mississippi's 1st District
Travis Childers (D) 54%

Greg Davis (R) 46%
Travis Childers had everything but the kitchen seat thrown at him by Greg Davis, the NRCC, and the shadowy outside group Freedom’s Watch.

After losing the last two competitive special elections for Republican seats (IL-14 and LA-06), the NRCC and its conservative allies went all out to try to hold MS-01.

What Travis Was Up Against

"This district shouldn’t be in play for Democrats in federal races. George W. Bush won the district in 2000 (60%) and 2004 (63%)."

-- Non-Partisan Rothenberg Political Report
  • Republicans had to spend nearly 20 percent of their cash on hand on a reliably Republican district.
  • The conservative group Freedom’s Watch spent at least $460,000.
  • In total, Republicans have spent at least $1.7 million on MS-01.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney, Governor Haley Barbour, former Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator Thad Cochran, former Senator Trent Lott, and Senator Roger Wicker all campaigned on behalf of Republican Greg Davis.
  • President Bush, Laura Bush, and Senator McCain recorded automated calls that were sent to voters throughout the district.

The Bottom Line

Travis Childers' stunning victory is bad news for national Republicans, and there are more than 40 Republican incumbent and Republican challenger districts with better Democratic performances than MS-01.

Don Cazayoux Wins in Louisiana

May 3rd: Louisiana's 6th District
Don Cazayoux (D) 49%

Woody Jenkins (R) 46%
Democrat Don Cazayoux's decisive victory in a Republican-leaning district was a reminder that 'all politics is local.' This was the second special election (LA-06 and IL-14) House Republicans unsuccessfully tried to nationalize by using Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, and Speaker Pelosi.

What Don Was Up Against

  • Nasty Ads from Outside Groups
    The NRCC, Freedom’s Watch, Club for Growth and other outside groups targeting Don poured nearly a million dollars into this race – and ran nearly 5,000 gross ratings points of TV in the final week alone.
  • "For the second time this cycle, Republicans were reminded that 'all politics is local.'

    -- DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen
  • LA-06 is a Republican-leaning district
    Republican Richard Baker held this seat for more than three decades and President Bush twice won it easily.
  • Jenkins History in the District
    Jenkins won LA-06 when he ran against Mary Landrieu for Louisiana’s open Senate seat in 1996. The Rothenberg Political Report says, “Jenkins is a local political icon to some but widely regarded as a very polarizing figure.” [Rothenberg Political Report, 03/21/08]

The Bottom Line

Don’s victory showed that Democrats whose values reflect their district can win Republican seats.

Bill Foster Wins Former Speaker Hastert's Seat

March 8th: Illinois' 14th District
Bill Foster (D) 53%

Jim Oberweis (R) 47%
Bill Foster’s victory in Speaker Hastert’s former seat was powerful evidence of the change that is sweeping America’s red and blue districts. It was a stunning rejection of the Bush Administration, its Republican allies, and presidential nominee John McCain.

...traditionally some of the most heavily Republican territory in the country

-- Almanac of American Politics

McCain Can't Save Republicans From Defeat

Republican candidates learned that Senator McCain, who campaigned with the Republican nominee, cannot save them from defeat this November against strong Democratic challengers, even in districts that voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.

The Bottom Line

Republicans' loss of Illinois 14 is further evidence of the collapse of the Republicans in the suburbs, especially in affluent suburbs, that were once overwhelmingly Republican. Illinois 14 also indicates that Republicans are having increasing difficulty in the exurbs, dooming the long-term Republican strategy of expanding their vote in the fastest growing parts of the country.