A SPECIAL-ELECTION UPSET IN VIRGINIA…. When it comes to electoral politics, most eyes are focused on Massachusetts’ special election next week. There was, however, another race yesterday that isn’t nearly as significant, but which has raised a few eyebrows today.

Even as Republicans and conservatives approach giddiness and near euphoria over the state of the special election campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, the results of a special election in northern Virginia yesterday should remind them not to take anything for granted.

In a major upset, Democratic Delegate Dave Marsden outspent his opponent by almost 2-1 and squeaked by GOP nominee Steve Hunt to capture the last remaining GOP seat in northern Virginia. Winning by just 317 votes (out of 23,569 cast), Marsden took the seat by 50.62 – 49.28 percent.

Democrats now control the Virginia state senate by 22-18.

Chris Good added, “The Democratic take on the victory, from a Democratic party source, is that it shows Democrats can win by running on jobs and the economy, and by tying GOP candidates to Sarah Palin, two things the party plans to do a lot of in 2010.”

Now, it’s obviously a little silly to draw too many larger lessons from a state senate special election in Virginia in January. I know Dems are pleased to win this one, and it’s likely to have an impact on re-districting in the commonwealth, but the Democratic upset happened in a race no one outside the area knew existed, and with a Democratic candidate who wasn’t exactly liberal. No one should go overboard and characterize this as a good “sign” for Dems elsewhere.

That said, how the Democratic candidate pulled off this upset, so soon after Dems were trounced elsewhere in Virginia, is noteworthy.

The Dem’s principal campaign flyer showed a picture of Sarah Palin with a text bubble that showed her saying, “I can see Russia from my house.” The message to district voters underneath read, in all caps, “If you don’t vote Jan. 12th, you’ll see a Republican-dominated Virginia from yours.”

The mailing worked, and the Dem eked out an unexpected win. Don’t be surprised if Palin-related mailings became common for Democrats this year — Jonathan Martin said the strategy is “sure to be used in other such suburban districts this fall.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.