OHNo! 4 Takeaways From Last Night’s Elections | NTK Network OHNo! 4 Takeaways From Last Night’s Elections

OHNo! 4 Takeaways From Last Night’s Elections

Yesterday, voters from Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington state went to the polls and cast their ballots in critical federal and state primaries.

By NTK Staff | 08.08.2018 @8:05am
OHNo! 4 Takeaways From Last Night’s Elections

Yesterday, voters from Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington state went to the polls and cast their ballots in critical federal and state primaries. While the special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District captured much of the attention, the night’s results provided several clear takeaways for Republicans and Democrats alike.

1) OHNo! Warning Signs From the 12th for November…

Last night, Republican Troy Balderson “barely overcame an aggressive challenge from Democrat Danny O’Connor.” “Barely,” in a district Republicans have held for 35 years and despite a massive effort by the GOP. As Politico notes, the victory came at considerable expense, with outside spending, visits by the president and vice president, and an endorsement from the sitting Republican governor. Ultimately, Republicans outspent Democrats in the race 4-to-1. And the makeup of the district is “emblematic of the GOP’s struggles”:

The Ohio district, which is filled with upper income and higher educated voters that the president has struggled with, was emblematic of the GOP’s struggles. During the closing days of the race, Balderson leaned heavily on an endorsement from Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a moderate Republican and fierce Trump critic who remains popular in the Columbus suburbs.

“This is the same story we’ve seen in every special election and last year’s gubernatorial races: The Democratic base is fired up, we’re on defense in suburban seats, and it’s going to be a challenging fall,” said Robert Blizzard, a veteran GOP pollster who advised Balderson. “We’ve known this for a year-and-a-half.”

The New York Times goes further in-depth on the turnout, summarizing that “suburbanites are more fired up than rural voters” in “an ominous sign for Republicans”:

The most significant harbinger from the Ohio race may not be the narrow margin, but the turnout gap between the most and least heavily populated parts of a district that absorbs the close-in suburbs of Columbus and rural stretches of central Ohio. In both Franklin County, which includes Columbus, and Delaware County, the fast-growing suburb just north of Ohio’s capital, 42 percent of voters turned out. But in the five more lightly populated counties that round out the district, turnout ranged from 27 to 32 percent. This is an ominous sign for Republicans: The highest-income and best-educated elements of the electorate — those deeply uneasy with President Trump — are showing the most interest in voting. Defending a few dozen districts that are either more heavily urban or feature a similar demographic mix as Ohio’s 12th District, Republicans will need to find a way to win back suburbanites or better galvanize rural voters. If they do not, their House majority will slip away.

As USA Today points out, the Cook Political Report has 68 Republican-held districts where the partisan makeup is more favorable to Democrats than in OH-12. In a piece of contrary analysis, Fox News’ Chad Pergram points out that Democrats need to expand their reach beyond the immediate suburbs, and into the exurbs, to beat Republicans like Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA):

Democrats continue to do well on solid Democratic soil and increasingly dominate the suburbs. O’Connor ran up the scoreboard in Franklin County. But here’s the problem for Democrats and O’Connor: Delaware County immediately to the north of Franklin County is quintessentially suburban. It’s one thing for a Democrat to win the close-in suburbs of Columbus. It’s another for Democrats to expand their reach further to the exurbs like Delaware County.

Democrats must really perform well in areas like Delaware County to have a shot of winning the House. Consider pundits who view Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., as a target for a loss this fall.

Comstock represents a district in the distant suburbs of Washington, DC. The district then turns very rural (kind of like Ohio’s 12th). Democrats need to extend their reach to the distant suburbs in order to get somewhere this fall.

Then, look at Muskingum and Morrow Counties in Ohio. Both are rural. O’Connor wasn’t going to win there. The question then becomes how well O’Connor might perform in Muskingum and Morrow in an effort to offset the inherit Balderson advantage. O’Connor preliminarily bested percentages from Hillary Clinton in those counties in the 2016 presidential election. But for O’Connor to knock out Balderson means the Democrat needs to win just a few more votes in rural parts of the district.

This is something Democrats need in districts across the board this fall if there is to be any chance of a “blue wave.” Democrats appear to show more traction in these regions. But is it enough? Not yet.

Overall though, for Republicans, the results are warning signs of an electoral map that increasingly has them playing defense in the House. BuzzFeed’s Henry Gomez wrote:

Either way, if Republicans can no longer count on cakewalks in districts like this one, the party will likely will have to play defense — and spend more money — in places they ordinarily wouldn’t to keep control of the House. And though Tuesday’s victory might bring momentary relief, it came at a cost: Outside groups spent millions of dollars to prop up Balderson, and President Donald Trump, who has fostered a treacherous political climate for his party, was called in to stage a rally intended to help pull the candidate across the finish line.

Unlike in Ohio, Republicans will not be able to focus considerable resources, deploy the president, or open offices in each district with a vulnerable member. The Congressional Leadership Fund’s Corry Bliss was direct in warning Republicans:

“While we won tonight, this remains a very tough political environment and moving forward, we cannot expect to win tough races when our candidate is being outraised. … Any Republican running for Congress getting vastly outraised by an opponent needs to start raising more money.”

However, as some Republicans have pointed out, a victory is a victory, and as Pergram at Fox News observes, while the Ohio results were the continuation of a trend of Democrats transforming safe GOP districts into competitive races, “Democrats cannot continue to repeatedly make races close and lose”:

Democrats have repeatedly transformed special elections in what are otherwise safe GOP districts into dogfights over the past year and a half. There was no reason the contest in Ohio should have been tight. Former Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, long held the district. Prior to that, Ohio Gov. John Kasich represented the district in Washington. But then again, Democrats have repeatedly put into play historically Republican districts in special elections. Consider contests in Kansas, Georgia, Montana and South Carolina. Democrats came close to winning them all – but didn’t. Democrats finally won a special election on GOP turf in late March. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., emerged victorious – but barely. In other words, Democrats are making things close lots of places that shouldn’t be close. That bodes well in the midterms as Democrats need to flip 23 seats to claim control of the House. But Democrats cannot continue to repeatedly make races close and lose. That’s certainly not a recipe for victory in the House.

2) Decent Night for Trump…

The president does get “bragging rights” in Ohio, as he did demonstrate an “ability to mobilize his supporters behind congressional candidates.” As Fox News highlighted, “President Trump makes a difference in these races”:

Here’s something else we learned: President Trump makes a difference in these races…on both sides of the ledger. If Balderson’s lead holds, one could plausibly argue that Mr. Trump’s campaign rally in Newark, OH over the weekend may have been just enough to propel the Republican candidate to victory.

Outside of Ohio, Trump “appeared to do well in Michigan” with his endorsements. If Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach ekes out the nomination in Kansas’s gubernatorial primary, Trump will get a lot of the credit.

3) Terrible Night for the Socialists…

Despite weeks of headlines touting their strength, last night’s results were terrible for the wing of the Democrat Party led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), with the two “for the most part falling short.” The results are not at all impressive for the duo:

  • Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders campaigned for Abdul El-Sayed, who fell more than 20 points short in his bid for the gubernatorial nomination in Michigan.
  • In Kansas, the two backed Brent Welder in the 3rd Congressional District, who has fallen into second place with 71 percent of the precincts report.
  • In Missouri, Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for Cori Bush, who was running against Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) but ultimately lost by about 20 points.

As The Washington Post’s David Weigel wrote, “The Democratic Party’s left-wing insurgency found its limits Tuesday night.” Weigel pointed out not only the results above, but that “in suburban House districts across the Midwest, left-wing candidates lost to Democrats backed by party leaders, abortion rights groups and labor unions.” The failure of the candidates left The Washington Post calling both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez “losers” from last night.

4) ‘Unions Are Back,’ the Headlines Roar … But Are They Really?

The New York Times declared it “a big night for labor,” with Right-to-Work failing in Missouri in “a lopsided win for labor.” However, Noam Scheiber, also at the NYT, puts the result into some context:

But it was not immediately clear that the forces driving the impressive showing for labor in Missouri could be reproduced elsewhere.

One reason is that Republican voters who buck their party on a ballot measure, as many appeared to do in Missouri, may be unwilling to vote against Republican candidates in a general election, even when those candidates are hostile to labor.

T. J. Berry, a Republican state representative whose district includes some outer suburbs of Kansas City, said that many of his constituents were proud union members who opposed right to work but nonetheless voted Republican because they were conservative on issues like abortion and guns.

“I have four guys who are Ford workers in my Sunday school class,” Mr. Berry said. “And they fit exactly what I’ve told you: Pro-life, pro-gun and pro-worker. All of them voted for Trump.”

Labor also appeared to enjoy a significant financial advantage in Missouri that is unlikely to recur in other states where Republicans have the wherewithal to pass right-to-work bills. According to state financial filings, the union-funded We Are Missouri coalition had spent just over $15 million on its ballot campaign as of late July, about three times what the four leading groups supporting the right-to-work legislation spent over the same period.

A key factor behind this disparity was the leadership vacuum that the former Republican governor, Eric Greitens, left when he resigned amid scandal in May.

“He was going to be the champion, then he was embroiled in controversy the whole year,” Mr. Berry said. “If you don’t have a leader, it’s pretty hard to rally the troops.”

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