Republicans did better than expected in last night's special election to fill the House seat vacated by the death of Democratic Rep. Julia Carson of Indiana. Her Indianapolis district leans left -- as evidenced by John Kerry's 58% showing in 2004. But Andre Carson, the 33-year-old grandson of the deceased incumbent and a local city council member, eked out only a 54% victory, hardly a barnburner for Democrats. He now becomes the second Muslim serving in Congress. "I'm an Indy 500 Hoosier, I'm a Covered Bridge Festival Hoosier.... I just happen to be a Hoosier of the Muslim faith," he said at his victory celebration.
Defeated was Republican Jon Elrod, who will almost certainly be the GOP standard-bearer when the seat is again up for grabs in November. Mr. Elrod in 2006 pulled off the rare feat of knocking off an incumbent Democrat in the state legislature. But who will he face in November? Despite yesterday's win, the new incumbent Mr. Carson will face serious competition in the May 5 Democratic primary. State Reps. David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays, and former state Health Commissioner Woodrow Myers are all well-financed and claim Mr. Carson only won the Democratic nod for the special election by pulling strings with the local party machinery.
In any event, Mr. Elrod's showing should be of some cheer to Republicans. He performed a full four points better than the GOP "base" vote in the 2004 presidential race. That's certainly better than the seven-point loss in their base vote that Illinois Republicans suffered in surrendering the House seat of former Speaker Denny Hastert on Saturday. Clearly, the GOP has trouble heading into the fall election but the Indiana results aren't pointing to anything like a meltdown.
I guess I'm a little bit too close to the race to share this same perspective. Hat tip to Polis Politics for catching this one.