Like summer blockbusters, special elections are always entertaining and sexy, if not substantive and informative. The Southern slugfest in Georgia's 6th Congressional District is no exception.
That electoral contest between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel has been hyped as the definitive referendum not only of President Trump's tenure but also of the coming 2018 midterm elections.
Except it's not that at all. That isn't just my opinion. It's the obvious conclusion of recent history. Democrats were lulled into a false sense of security ahead of the Republican 2010 wave election by a slew of special election victories. They went 10 for 16 in special congressional races only to lose the House in a landslide.
Perhaps none of those contests mirrors the current Georgia drama as closely as Democrat Mark Critz's victory in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District. Swap the political parties and that race has an almost tedious familiarity, a sort of democratic deja vu that should haunt Paul Ryan's dreams.
Back then, the race to succeed deceased Democratic Rep. John Murtha was billed as a bellwether. Sen. John McCain had just carried PA-12 in the presidential and Democrats feared that the historically-blue district might go red. Like tomorrow's race in Georgia, it quickly became a political proxy war.
Facing an anti-establishment headwind fueled by President Barack Obama's increasing unpopularity, Critz ran as somewhat of a moderate. Profiting from generous party bosses, Critz filled his war chest with out of state donations. And the recipient of some star power, Critz brought Vice President Joe Biden onstage.
Against the odds and political wisdom, Critz absolutely crushed it. The Democrat brutally thrashed his Republican challenger with 53 to 45 percent of the vote, bring the Left euphoria and the right despair.
"If you can't win a seat that is trending Republican in a year like this," Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., wondered aloud to the New York Times, "then where is the wave?" Feeding off that Republican misery, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., crooned that Democrats "are going to maintain our majority."
Both were wrong.
Six months later, a red wave came crashing down on Democrats as Republicans won 63 seats to recapture the House. It was the biggest congressional sweep since World War II and Critz's victory in Pennsylvania did little to comfort Democratic leaders as they moved into their new, much smaller, minority offices.
The parallels to today are inescapable and, win or lose, congressional Republicans should be terrified. Unless things change quickly, they're barreling toward 2018 with an increasingly unpopular president and without any big legislative wins. In short, though the seat is symbolic, Republicans have more to worry about than the Georgia race.
Pundits will do their best to keep their congressional audience on the edge of their seats tomorrow. They'll hype every exit poll, ballot projection, and interview. Whatever the result, Republicans shouldn't let the blockbuster theater dazzle them into a false sense of security.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.