Early Returns

What Montana Means for 2018

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

I was planning to write about interpreting today's special U.S. House election in Montana but hadn't quite counted on the Republican candidate being charged with misdemeanor assault of a reporter and how that might mess with everything. Fortunately, it doesn't change much. 

Do special elections predict the next general elections -- in this case, the November 2018 midterms? Yes, but only collectively, and even then only if one remembers to adjust for where they are held. Cook's David Wasserman has a good discussion of that. 

But there's also -- and forgive the baseball reference -- the RBI question. Baseball analysts would agree that, all things being equal and with no further information, how many runs a hitter has batted in does in fact tell you something about his power hitting. However, RBIs don't add anything beyond slugging percentage (they are, in fact, a function of slugging percentage and RBI opportunities). Same here. It's possible a handful of special elections can add a bit of predictive accuracy to what we already know about the president's popularity and the economy, but probably not much. 

And then there's winning and losing. On the one hand, winning (even by one vote) really does matter because every seat in the House matters. On the other hand, in terms of predictive value, a two-point Democratic win and a two-point Republican win are close to identical. 

What certainly can matter, in addition to the seat at stake itself, is how people interpret the election. Losing, especially in a Republican state, would tend to lead everyone who does business with the president to further downgrade how (un)popular they think he is. It also would tend to help Democratic candidate recruitment for 2018 elections even more than what we've seen so far. That kind of reaction (again, if Democrat Rob Quist does win) might be somewhat dampened by the last-minute story of Republican Greg Gianforte's appalling behavior, but it's hard to know for sure. 

1. Orfeo Fioretos at the Monkey Cage on signs to look for from the G-7 summit

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: Keith E. Whittington on impeachable acts

3. "In January the White House looked as though it had an America First foreign policy strategy that it wanted to implement; in May, the White House looks as though it just wants to get through a 24-hour news cycle without a single foreign policy fiasco": Dan Drezner on the Trump administration's foreign-policy and national-security learning curve, if that's what it is.

4. Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young at the Huffington Post on the Congressional Budget Office score for the House-passed health-care bill

5. And Margot Sanger-Katz at the Upshot on how to read that CBO report.

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