If Democrats win the nationally-watched special U.S. House race in Ohio’s historically Republican 12th District Tuesday, speculation will immediately turn to the question of how large the “tsunami wave” against the GOP will be this fall.
As of Monday, the contest between Republican State Sen. Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County (Columbus) Recorder of Deeds, could go either way. A Monmouth poll completed at the end of July showed Balderson leading O’Connor by a 1 point margin — 46 percent-45 percent.
But a just-completed Emerson poll gave O’Connor the edge by 47 percent to 46 percent—in a district that has been firmly in Republican hands for all but two of the last 80 years.
Following the Democratic wins in the special U.S. Senate race in Alabama in December and the Pennsylvania-18 special House race in March, more than a few political scientists are beginning to liken an O’Connor win to that of the Democratic capture of President Ford’s old House seat in Michigan in 1974 — the third Democratic pickup of Republican territory in a special election and the start of the wave that led to Democrats winning their largest U.S. House majority in modern times that year.
“You can sense the fervor on the part of Democrats to win this and send a message,” Franklin County, Ohio GOP Chairman Doug Preisse told Newsmax, “and that’s probably evident in the greater-than-usual-early voting.”
The Republican history of the district aside, Priesse quickly added, “our side has an outstanding get-out-the-vote team and, on Tuesday, that will reverse the early votes.”
But Ohio State University Prof. Herb Asher, author of three books on politics, pointed out that given the all-out Republican effort to retain the seat, “the would have a hard time explaining it away if the Democrats won.”
“They got the candidate they wanted — [moderate-to-conservative] Trey Balderson—out of the primary,” Asher told us. “He has all the money he could need for the election. Prominent Republicans — Trump, [Vice President Mike] Pence, and [Gov. John] Kasich— have campaigned for him. The previous Republican incumbent Pat Tiberi [who resigned to take a lucrative private sector job] was very popular, and the district was gerrymandered to be Republican. What more could you want?”
O’Connor, 31, has been likened to fellow Democrat Conor Lamb, who won the last special election for the House in Pennsylvania’s 18th District back in March.
Like Lamb, O’Connor has been in no position that forced him to take stands on controversial issue and has campaigned almost exclusively on such general themes as “creating economic opportunity and jobs” and “protecting Medicare and Social Security.”
Throughout the campaign, O’Connor has taken the same position as Lamb in vowing not to vote for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D.-CA, as speaker if Democrats capture the House. Two weeks ago, however, O’Connor reversed himself and told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews he “would support whoever the Democratic Party put forward” as speaker.
Buckeye State Republicans have since hit this hard, with the state party headquarters branding the Democrat “Dishonest Danny.”
“We know that many voters in the 12th who backed Mitt Romney in ’12 and Hillary Clinton in ’16 will go for O’Connor,” said Henry Olsen, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, “We don’t know yet if the number will be high enough to carry him to victory. If he does not, the Matthews interview might have done the trick.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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