Democratic hopes of retaking the U.S. House of Representatives next year are now sky high after results from this past Tuesday’s elections showed voters in Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, Maine, and other states around the country were more than eager to deliver defeats to Republican candidates who either openly embraced or distanced themselves from President Donald Trump and his destructive, dysfunctional agenda.
While results were spectacular in states that pushed back on Trumpism, expectations for Ohio contributing bigly to Democrats regaining power in the U.S. House should be tamped down, if an analysis by the Cook Political Report (CPR), a long-time, well-respected diviner of American politics, on the 61 GOP-held Congressional districts that CPR rates competitive is considered.
The so-called white working-class vote, which helped install Donald Trump into the White House last year, is central and hotly debated as to whether this block of voters – less educated, less wealthy and rural – will show up in numbers sufficient to re-elect Trump in 2020, should he still be president if impeachment proceedings don’t occur or they do and he withstands them.
As CPR notes, though, “the midterm electorate is typically more educated and better off financially than the presidential-year one,” so most of the “pickup opportunities that analysts envision for Democrats are in wealthy or at least middle-class areas.”
On average, CPR says, the 61 Republican-held Congressional districts that CPR rates as competitive rank in the 65th percentile in educational attainment (as measured by the share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree) and also the 65th percentile in median household income.
“Some of them are fairly white, and some aren’t – but almost none are both white and working-class,” CPR states.
Of Ohio’s 16 Congressional Districts, only two qualify as “competitive,” District 1, held by Cincinnati Republican Steve Chabot, and District 16, held by Wadsworth Republican Jim Renacci, a declared candidate for governor. The other 14 are locked into the incumbent winning another term, barring some unforeseen set of circumstances that could topple CPR’s carefully considered election analysis.
When Republicans gerrymandered districts in 2011, with Gov. John Kasich, Secretary of State Jon Husted and State Auditor David Yost – the three key votes on the Apportionment Board – doing the heavy lifting, Ohio’s future as a ruby red state was more or less set in concrete until the results of the next census in 2020 brings the Apportionment Board into play again, as happens once a decade.
Ohio Democratic officials are touting the performance of Democrats candidates at local levels like city council and mayor. Democrats now control 13 of 15 of Ohio’s largest cities.
“To the extent they are embracing the far right wing of the party … versus a bunch of Democrats sticking to the issues, we’re on the much stronger side of winning elections next year,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. He added this litmus test: “You get too close to Trump… now you’re no longer in public office.”
It’s good to win at all levels, but political leadership at the state level, where rules are set for future races, has been all Republican for the last four election cycles, two presidential and two mid-term.
While the notion that Ohio can follow in some fashion what happened Tuesday night, the hard reality of Ohio’s terribly gerrymandered districts ought to be sobering for Buckeye Democrats, who have been thrashed and trashed in statewide seats from 2010, when Kasich and fellow Republicans blew away their opponents, to last year, when Trump shellacked Hillary Clinton in game-changer Ohio by almost nine percentage points.
In the two House seats identified by CPR as competitive, both are still seen as “Leans Republican.” Winning them from the current incumbents, who have won them again and again, seems a tall order for a party that needs all the help it can get, especially in the campaign contribution category, to stay competitive with the kind of cash Republicans are expected to lay down to keep their holdings in tact.