Some of the post election analysis of the California 36th district special election would leave people with the conclusion that Janice Hahn herself as a candidate underperformed. Having spend a lot of time studying top two primary results in Washington State, I believe that specific conclusion is off base. While Democrats as a whole may have underperformed in CA-36 special election, Hahn performed as well in the general as should be effect for an average quality Democratic candidate.
I’ve examined hundreds of elections in Washington State that used the top two primary system. I found that the overall partisan share of the primary election very closely matches the result in the general. I also found that when there was multiple serious candidates from one party in the primary, that party’s overall share in the general tends to be slightly lower than it was in the primary.
If these metrics from Washington State are applied to the CA-36th, the first Congressional election in California using the state’s new top two primary system, Hahn performed perfectly inline with my expectations. In the May 17th primary the Democrats overall share was 56.1 percent and their over all share of just the Democrat-Republican vote (excluding independents and third parties) was 57.5 percent.
On Tuesday Hahn share of the vote was 54.6 percent, only 1.5 percent points below the party’s share of the overall primary vote and 2.9 percent points below the the Democratic share of the just the two party vote. Since there were more strong performing Democratic candidates in the primary than Republicans candidates, based on the previously observed trend, we should have expected the overall share of the Democratic vote to be a few points lower in the general.
In the general election Hahn did just about as well as you should expect your average Democrat to do based on the primary results. If the overall share of the Democratic vote in CA-36th general election was lower than it should be in such a Democratic leaning district. that is more likely a result of broad issues with the Democratic party, popular opinion towards the two parties, the dynamics of a special election turnouts, voting laws in California, etc… but not the Hahn campaign specifically.