(CNN)Tuesday’s special election to represent New Mexico’s 1st District in Congress is just one race. No matter who wins — likely the Democratic candidate Melanie Stansbury — control of Congress won’t change.
Yet, this race will also be one of our first insights into the political environment a little more than four months into President Joe Biden’s administration. Federal special elections, as a group, usually give us a fairly good idea how midterms are going to go.
Democrats barely won the House of Representatives in 2020. They took the national House popular vote by 3 points, leading to a small 5-seat majority. Any movement in the national environment toward the GOP is likely to result in the Democrats losing control of the chamber.
The key to understanding how to read Tuesday’s result in that context is that New Mexico’s 1st is a heavily Democratic district. President Joe Biden won it by 23 points last election. Hillary Clinton took it by 17 points in 2016. Democrat Deb Haaland, now the secretary of the Interior, won the district by 16 points in her 2020 re-election campaign.
It would take a truly unusual event for Republican Mark Moores to beat Stansbury. This heavily Democratic district covering much of Albuquerque just hasn’t voted for Republicans recently.
Democrats, though, don’t only want to win this election. They want to win it big because of what it says about the larger state of play.
Historically, the swing in House special elections from the last two presidential elections is telling. Combining the 2016 and 2020 results and giving more weight to the most recent one, New Mexico’s 1st District is about 18 points
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