Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Close but no cigar

The pattern emerging is that the Democrats can make it close but they can't win crucial seats.  Of course, none of us would have paid much attention to Ohio's 12th district special election had not Danny O'Connor saw an upsurge in the polls over the summer suggesting Troy Balderson was vulnerable in this normally reliable Republican district.  So, all eyes turned to the suburbs of Columbus to see if a "blue wave" would roll over Ohio.  As of this morning, Balderson holds a narrow advantage in the race, but it is doubtful the provisional ballots yet to be counted will tip the election to O'Connor.

The Democrats were able to force the Republicans to spend heavily in a district they didn't make much of an investment in.  The GOP had to bring out all its firepower, including Trump, who appears to have rubbed just enough mojo on Balderson to give him a badly needed victory.  Kasich says the president was never invited to Ohio, but turned up anyway, throwing the race into disarray.  Either way, the Dems can claim a moral victory of sorts, but is that enough to turn over Congress this fall?

My guess is no.  As disgruntled as many moderate conservatives are with Trump, they can't bring themselves to vote Democratic, as they want their representatives in Congress, if they have any hope of holding onto their party.  So, unless a pure Trump candidate is going up against a Democrat, there isn't much chance these districts will swing in the Democrat's favor.

The difference between Pennsylvania and Ohio is that Rick Saccone firmly aligned himself with Trump.  Balderson did not.  In fact, the veteran state legislator rarely mentioned the president's name on the campaign trail, choosing to attach himself to Governor Kasich instead.  Balderson was as surprised as anyone that Trump turned up the last week of the special election but who is he to say no.

The Democrats need to gain 22 seats in the House of Representatives to hold a one-vote majority.  The mid-terms are shaping up a lot like the Virginia state legislature race last year, where the Democrats fell one vote shy of splitting the state house.  It came down to a coin toss and the Republicans won.  Close only counts in hand grenades and horse shoes as the old saying goes.

There are some things the Democrats could do to change the dynamics of this election.  For one, Nancy Pelosi could at the very least give up her role as leader of the party, which would go a long way toward undermining the GOP campaign strategy of focusing on her leadership.  Preferably, she would retire.  Two, the DNC could show more enthusiasm for its progressive candidates rather than playing this election safe, as they did in 2016.  Three, they could offer something more inspiring than a "better deal."

Instead, they seem to be banking largely on buyers' remorse, hoping to turn key seats in moderate districts that are worn out on Trump politics.  Yet, they have only been able to turn one House seat and one Senate seat in special elections over the last two years.  Granted, both victories were impressive, but a far cry from the blue wave many pundits have predicted. 

What we have seen are Democrats making gains in a handful of states disgruntled with their Republican leadership.  This is not enough.  They have to regain the US House of Representatives.  The Senate is a pretty tall order given they have to defend so many seats.  Only by gaining a split in Congress can they hope to thwart Trump over the next two years, otherwise he will be gloating like a guy who won a pie-eating contest at a state fair.

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