How Scared Should Republicans Be?

Tous les blogs are aflutter today, less over Clinton’s West Virginia victory than over Democrat Travis Childers’ thumping of Republican Greg Davis in Mississippi’s First District special election. Despite the NRCC sinking $1.8 million into the race—plus robocalls from President Bush and a personal visit by Dick Cheney—Childers managed to pull off a 54-46 win in a district held by the GOP since 1994.

This is now the third special election—the first was for Dennis Hastert’s seat in Illinois’ 14 th District, then Don Cazayoux’s Louisiana victory on May 3—in which a Democrat has defeated a Republican on his own turf.

How bad is this for the GOP? Judging by NRCC chief Tom Cole’s panicked memo last night, pretty bad.

One easy way to predict how screwed Republicans are is to compare these three districts with other Republican-held House districts that won’t have an incumbent running in November. Here’s each district’s Partisan Voter Index , which measures how strongly a district leaned over the past two presidential elections.

Special elections already won by Democrats:

IL-14: R +5
LA-6: R+7
MS-01: R+10

Districts held by retiring Republicans:

AL-2: R+13
AZ-1: R+2
CA-4: R+11
CA-52: R+9
CO-6: R+10
FL-15: R+4
IL-11: R+1
IL-18: R+5
KY-2: R+13
LA-4: R+7
MN-3: R+1
MO-9: R+7
MS-3: R+13
NM-1: D+2
NM-2: R+6
NJ-3: D+3
NJ-7: R+1
NY-25: D+3
NY-26: R+3
OH-7: R+6
OH-15: R+1
OH-16: R+4
PA-5: R+10
VA-11: R+1
WY-At large: R+19

Now for some pseudoscience. If you average out the PVIs of the districts Democrats have already won, you get 7.3. Average out the PVIs of the districts that vote in November, and you get 5.6. In other words, on average, the districts already won by Democrats are more Republican than the nonincumbent GOP district Democrats need to win in November.

Of course, these special elections aren’t exactly typical. Childers campaigned on a pro-life, pro-gun platform that his Yankee counterparts can’t exactly emulate. Nor was Cazayoux’s Louisiana win particularly overwhelming . But as a general indicator, the races give House Republicans reason to squirm.