Tuesday, August 7, 2018

BTRTN: Ohio's 12th District Special Election: Do the Dems Make Another Statement Tonight?

Tom makes the official BTRTN call on another pivotal special election.

There is another Special Election in the House of Representatives tonight, this time in Ohio’s 12th District.  And thus we will receive another real-time verdict on the Trump Administration, and another data point in the assessment of the Democrats’ chances of taking over the House in November.

You will note, in our right hand column, that we have a new feature.  We have supplemented our models to create a chart, right at the top, that gives the odds as of the current time of the Dems taking over the House and the Senate.  As we sit today, we calculate those odds at 72% and 21%, respectively.  We will revise those odds as we get significant new information, be it primary results, new polls, generic ballot updates, significant macro developments and/or campaign news.

Ohio’s 12th became vacant when GOP Representative Patrick Tiberi resigned on January 31, 2018 to run the Ohio Business Council.  This is a solid red district in central Ohio that Tiberi won by +37 points in 2016 that Trump won by +11 points that same year, and has been held by the GOP for 35 years.

Image result for ohio's 12th districtThe two contenders are Republican state Senator Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County Recorder.  O’Connor has been running surprisingly well, setting the potential for an upset reminiscent of Doug Jones (the Democratic Senator who won in Alabama) and Conor Lamb (the Democrat who won Pennsylvania’s 18th District in the House).  Oddly, the winner will serve only until January; the seat will be contested again in November.

This is a “must win” for the GOP, and, in desperation, they’ve thrown everything they have at the election to support Balderson, including the endorsement of Donald Trump.

Even a close race, of course, would tell a tale, and one similar to so many special elections in 2017 and 2018.  And that is the tale of the Democrats running far better than in 2016, either losing by previously-thought-to-be unthinkably close margins -- or flat out winning.  Here are the House races over that time, which were held by Republican incumbents in every case but one (California’s 34th, where two Democrats ran against each other.   Excluding California and Pennsylvania (which the GOP won unopposed in 2016), the margins in the seven GOP contested districts had an average margin in 2016 of R + 28; in the special election that was reduced to R + 12.  If the Dems improved their margin by +16 points in every House race this November, they will take over the House handily. These are the numbers that terrify the GOP.

State/ Dist.
Special Election
Nov. 2016          Outcome
Special Election Outcome
Diff Special vs. Nov 2016
Pompeo (R)
R + 31
Estes (R)
R + 7
D + 24
Zinke (R)
R + 15
Gianforte (R)
R + 6
D + 9
CAL 34
Bacerra (D)
D +100
Gomez (D)
D + 100
GA 6
Price (R)
R + 24
Handel (R)
R + 4
D + 20
SC 5
Mulvaney (R)
R + 20
Norman (R)
R + 3
D + 17
Chaffetz (R)
R + 47
Curtis (R)
R + 32
D + 15
PA 18
Murphy (R)
R + 100
Lamb (D)
D + 0.3
D + 17
Franks (R)
R + 37
Lesko (R)
R + 6
D + 31
TEX 27
Farenthold (R)
R + 24
Cloud (R)
R + 23
D + 1

Polling has been very close.  The last two polls, taken a week ago, both show the two contenders just a point apart, with Balderson leading in one, O’Connor the other.  Balderson is a stronger candidate than Conor Lamb’s opponent, Rick Saccone, and O’Connor probably falls short of Lamb.  Nevertheless, they are running neck-and-neck in a similar district.

Yet from all reports on the ground, the momentum seems to be moving to the Democrat.  Two polls in June had Balderson up by +11 and +9; he has clearly lost ground in the last six weeks, and that will be difficult to reverse.  The Dems are energized, smelling blood in the air, and have unleashed formidable support for O’Connor to counter the GOP’s effort.

Our official BTRTN prediction is that Danny O’Connor, like Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania and Doug Jones in Alabama, will pull off this minor miracle, and win Ohio’s 12th district by a nose, 51/49.   

But the true bottom line is, win or lose, as long as the margin is close, this will be good news for the Democrats and very bad news for Donald Trump.

Outcome:  This one is still not done, with 3,000+ provisional ballots remaining to be counted. But it looks like a win for the GOP; very close as predicted, but 50/49 right now.  But as we said, a close loss is really a win for the Dems in this deep red district.

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