While most attention has been focused on the never-ending story of the Democratic presidential primaries, the Republicans have just lost a seemingly safe seat in a Mississippi special election, following two earlier losses including that of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. As this CNN story says, this raises the prospect of a wipeout in November. The result is consistent with steadily declining Republican affiliation and massive rejection of Bush (who’s reached all-time lows in several polls recently). McCain is still managing to avoid much of the stench associated with his party, but it seems to me this will be a lot harder for him in the context of a general election, where I imagine he will be expected to campaign on behalf of vulnerable Republicans.
I don’t know, though, whether there’s a common pattern of upsets in special elections. Incumbent governments often do badly in by-elections in Australia, since it provides the opportunity for a largely consequence-free protest vote, but this logic doesn’t seem to apply in the US context. I’d be interested in any thoughts from readers