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Why Losing the Ohio Special Election Might Be the Best Thing for Democrats (Don't @ Me)

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | August 8, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | August 8, 2018 |


It looks like Republican Troy Balderson is headed for potential victory in the Ohio special election against Democrat Danny O’Connor, although it’s anything but a done deal. As one of our fantastic readers, Casey, pointed out, there’s 5,000 absentee ballots and about 3,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted, and the margin is at 1,754.

O’Connor might pull this out.

But even if he doesn’t, I’m not too bothered, and here’s why: This is a district with a 14+ Republican lean, where Trump won by 11 points in 2016. It shouldn’t have been a close race, and it’s not like Balderson was Roy Moore or anything, either. He wasn’t a particularly bad candidate. It’s just that, even in very Red districts, Democrats are doing very well, while Republicans are clearly disillusioned with Trump and the Republican party, in general. It’s not like it was a place that Trump won by stealing Obama voters, either. This was a district that also voted heavily for Romney. It’s a historically Republican district that damn near voted for a Democrat, a Democrat hasn’t won there since 1981, and that guy only served two years. Beyond that, no Democrat has won that district since … 1939! This is a seat that remains solidly Republican even during blue waves.

But lookit: Suburban areas are turning against Trump and the Republicans across the entire country, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. As long as Trump is in office, suburban moms are likely to reject Republicans in an increasingly large way.

And consider this, too: Balderson was not only a decent candidate, the Republican party had to spend a ton of money to save him, and Donald Trump came out 3 days before the election to try and save this for him (Trump is bragging on Twitter that he was the difference maker, saying that Balderson was down in the polls previously, which is untrue. O’Connor was behind in every single poll except one (where he held a one-point lead)).

What does that mean for the rest of the country, where the Republican lean is only 5 or 6 points, where Trump can’t come in three days before the election, where the Republican party can’t afford to flood the district with money?

In a way, the loss might be better for Democrats, and this is why: This was a special election. O’Connor and Balderson face off again in 3 months (why they held a special election three months before the midterms is beyond me). In three months, the Democrats are going to be more energized to get O’Connor — who raised more money than Balderson — over the hump. The Republicans won’t have as much money to spend to save Balderson, and Trump’s time will be divided among the other 50 seats that are in jeopardy. Trump voters, meanwhile, are more likely to rest on their laurels now that that entire nation’s attention is not turned toward their district. For Democrats, it’s “We got another shot at this!” and for Republicans, it’s “Oh God. We have to do this again?”

I think that’s probably worth 1,756 votes in November, don’t you think?

Maybe you’re skeptical. Maybe you’re saying, “Yeah! But this was a special election. More voters will turn out to vote in the other statewide races in November.” Will they? Because the Democrat Richard Cordray is leading Republican Mike DeWine in most polls, and Sherrod Brown is crushing Republican Jim Renacci by double digits in a race that was once considered potentially vulnerable. There’s just more enthusiasm for Democrats right now, and that’s not likely to change in November. This is a very real case of Democrats losing the battle but possibly positioning themselves to win the war in the Ohio 12th (and in the country, at large).

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: Getty