It’s not uncommon for political attention to be concentrated on Ohio - the swing state has an uncanny ability to predict who will win the presidency. But on Tuesday the eyes of the nation were focused on a different race: Ohio’s twelfth congressional district. Democrat Danny O’Connor is facing a Trump-endorsed Republican, Troy Balderson, in a special election that some say is a metric for how well Democrats can fare in deep-red districts. The district is traditionally a Republican stronghold - but as of Thursday evening, the race is so close that a winner has not been called. Is this the beginning of the “blue wave”?
• “In theory, taking the 24 seats [Democrats] need to win the house should be an easy task. However, the party is doing what it does best: campaigning terribly, ignoring their problems, and getting ready to blow a huge electoral opportunity.”
• “And while having a wealth of candidates can be good for building party support, Democrats have found themselves with too many candidates in too many flippable races, which creates the risk of further dividing the Bernie and Hillary wings of the party.”
• “Democrats may be the “opposition” party in 2018, but that alone is not enough of a reason for Americans to vote for them. They need a coherent message—something they severely lacked in 2016 (and something other than “We’re not Trump”)—that explains to voters why they should cast their ballots for Democratic House candidates. Recent party takeovers of the House illustrate how making the midterm campaign a referendum on a single issue can be successful.”
• “As of now, the Democrats have yet to find their issue to take to the ballot box. That speaks to the core of the Democrats’ problem: they still don’t have a message or an issue that could persuade people to vote for them.”
• “Prominent Wisconsin Republicans should view a re-energized Democratic Party with concern and recognize that political stagnation in a Republican-controlled Congress with a Republican president has had consequences.”
• “Additionally, Democrats need to focus efforts on sustaining the blue wave. As exciting as the blue wave is for liberals nationwide and in Wisconsin, the Democratic Party needs to take full advantage of an energized voting population with the ability to flip districts from red to blue.”
• “Only time will tell if internal battles will exhaust the Democratic Party come November… Also, Democrats need to keep their base energized to hold onto Sen. Baldwin’s seat. Keeping seats is just as important as winning them back, and the Democratic Party must approach Baldwin’s campaign with the same level of enthusiasm to make sure that what is already blue, stays blue.”
• “This points to the heart of negative partisanship; many Democratic voters are aligning against a party and its policies. Overall, these polls suggest that the level of anger and hostility towards Trump and the Republicans has grown among Democrats. Thus, voting according to negative partisanship is becoming more of a reality for the 2018 midterm elections, as seen in the early elections in 2017.”
• “The early elections in states like Virginia and Alabama in 2017 are evidence of negative partisanship determining the 2018 elections. In the governor’s race in Virginia, it was mainly a battle between Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie… When asked what was one reason they voted for governor, among the voters who voted for Northam, 97% stated that it was to express opposition to Donald Trump. This indicates that the dislike for President Trump has contributed to the growth of negative partisanship; voter choices are being shaped by their opposition to Trump.
• “Though there is evidence of negative partisanship shaping election outcomes in governor races, some might say that it is naive to place an entire election outcome on one phenomenon. For example, while there was evidence of voting according to negative partisanship, there were also other important factors, like health care, that shaped how Virginians voted.”
The Bottom Line:
Right now, Balderson is the presumed winner in OH-12. Even though there are provisional ballots still to be counted it is unlikely that they would give O’Connor the push over the top. There are two ways that this can be interpreted: to begin with, OH-12 should not have been as competitive as it ended up being. On the other hand an almost win is still not a win for Democrats. Will history repeat itself during the midterms? As tempting as it might be for Democrats, one race should not be used to predict the outcomes of the many diverse elections that will be taking place on November 8th. It should, however, be a wake-up call for Republicans, who now have more than one example of surging Democratic enthusiasm in places they thought were safely Republican. Both sides have things to learn but should proceed with caution.