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Dodging a Bullet In California

So as everyone originally expected after a May primary, Jane Harman's successor in Congress will be Los Angeles city councilwoman Janice Hahn, who defeated wealthy Tea Partier Crag Huey by about a 55-45 margin in yesterday's special runoff.

The suspense about this race came from Huey's unexpected second-place finish in the primary, when he edged out Democratic Secretary of State Deborah Bowen for a runoff spot. The runoff campaign was expensive and abrasive, but was nonetheless expected to culminate in a very low turnout event--the kind where anything could happen. In the end, the Democratic nature of the district trumped Huey's money, and the exceptionally nasty "independent" campaign against Hahn that featured perhaps the most revolting web ad of all time.

Nate Silver suggests the results, while somewhat reassuring to Democrats, ought to be sobering as well:

Ms. Hahn's 9-percentage-point margin of victory, however, is underwhelming in a district where Democrats have an 18-point registration advantage. The race had received considerably less media attention than the special election in New York's 26th Congressional District in May, a Republican-leaning district in which Democrats also won under considerably more difficult circumstances. But in some ways it cuts against the momentum that Democrats had seemed to garner from the New York race, and serves as a reminder that retaking the House of Representatives still qualifies as an ambitious if achievable goal.

Fundamentals and trends are always important, but in the end, you have to actually have elections, and the results do not always meet expectations.