Historically, it wasn’t even supposed to be close. Instead, the final results are close enough to trigger a recount. That said, Republicans are thrilled.
The special election for Ohio’s twelfth district was won on Tuesday by Republican Troy Balderson, who beat Democrat Danny O’Connor.
The final unofficial results were: Balderson with 101,574 votes, O’Connor with 99,820. (Ohio Secretary of State)
It’s not that the result diverges greatly from the polls. In the final weeks heading into the election, Balderson was still ahead, but only by five points. (Cleveland.com) The polls continued to close as the election neared.
Balderson received the direct endorsement of President Trump, even luring Trump out to attend a rally on his behalf on August 4. (TNB) Trump had won the district by 9 points in 2016.
O’Connor, on the other hand, ran as a centrist. He promised not to vote for Nancy Pelosi if she ran for Speaker, and generally kept to traditional Democrat policy, eschewing the “Democratic Socialist” turn that some of the Democrat activists have been attempting to push.
In theory, that should not have been nearly enough. Ohio’s 12th district has been solidly Republican, only once breaking for a Democrat (1980, amidst fear that Reagan was a fiscally-clueless warmonger) since 1939.
Democrats saw an opportunity, though. The district that President Trump won handily has seen an economic benefit from the income tax policies but has also suffered from tariff policy. He is still wildly popular among a segment of the population, but the size of that segment has greatly diminished. Democrats flooded the O’Connor campaign with cash, in an effort to gain what is traditionally a safe Republican seat.
They hoped for a win, which would energize their base during the doldrums of August and revive talks of a “Blue Wave”. Meanwhile, the Republicans, seeing their lead dwindling ever lower, brought in Governor Kasich and President Trump in an effort to head off such a result.
It was a squeaker… and thus, the status quo is maintained. The Republicans have lost significant support throughout the country and now find traditionally safe seats in danger, but if they can keep enough of them, they stand a chance of retaining the House.
A significant part of that effort is energizing the Republican base. Successive losses would have hindered that. The Republicans needed a win last night, no matter how close, no matter how ugly. They received that win.
Now comes spin and damage control, for both sides. The Democrats will point to how close the election was, effectively ignoring the fact that they lost. The Republicans will seize upon the fact of the victory, ignoring the fact that it shouldn’t have been close. In fact, the spin has already begun.