Today, the voters of District 12 in Ohio are holding a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives. The race, as you no doubt have noticed, has received massive attention. What's tended to lead the commentary is how Trump won the district by 10 points in 2016, so if Democrats could flip this open Republican seat, which hasn't gone Blue since 1980, it would be a Big Story and help in their effort to take control of the House. A few days ago, polls showed Republican Troy Balderson up by only one point. The latest poll now has Democrat Danny O'Connor up by a point. Even Trump put himself on the line by going to to campaign there.
Two important points, however, have been overlooked in the coverage, one far more important than the other.
The first is that, while polls have the two candidates just a single point apart in either direction -- the margin of error is five points. So, the end result might not actually be as razor-thin close as it appears.
Much more important is another matter entirely. Yes, Trump won the district by 10 points. But that's nothing. Because what never gets mentioned (as far as I've heard...) is that also in that 2016 elections, Republicans won that race -- not by around 10 points -- but by...36.8 POINTS!!!
And now the Democratic candidate is up in the polls by a point
This isn't just a Red district that has been represented by Republicans in Congress for 38 years. A district can be Republican, after all, yet still face a respectable Democratic base. Indeed, as recently as 2008, Barack Obama actually won the Ohio 12th by seven points. But since it got redistricted in 2011, this an overwhelmingly and incredibly Republican district! The fact that Democrats have cut the margin by almost 37 points (!) is remarkable. And a far bigger story than who wins.
Yes, it's a very big deal if Democrats can flip the seat. A huge deal. Every seat they flip is one more towards taking back control of the House. Which is a massive deal.
But -- a swing of 37 POINTS in a deeply Blood Red district screams loudly about the trouble Republicans face in the mid-terms. And that's even a bigger deal. No, I don't expect Democrats to gain 37 points in every district. But let's be conservative a moment and consider: if they merely pick-up just one-third of that, it's a gain of 12 points. Which means that no Republican anywhere with a lead of even 11 points is safe. Then again, let's be just moderately conservative: there could be some districts where no Republican lead of 15-20 points is safe. Which actually has been around the average swing of votes that Democrats have been picking-up in Special Elections the past year.
This is a district that shouldn't just have been safe for Republicans, it's one that they shouldn't have had to spend a nickel in. That Trump had to come here to campaign (which for all we know may not inherently be a good thing for Republicans) and that Democrats are not only actually, seriously competitive here but up by a point in the polls -- THAT is the story. The biggest story.
Hopefully Danny O'Connor will win. And if he doesn't, you no doubt will hear Trump crowing about how big a deal that is -- and many Republicans will, as well, and even many commentators, if not most. BUT -- they're wrong, that's not the story. It's A story, to be sure. But the much, much, much bigger story -- whoever wins -- is that Democrats picked up almost 37 points in the deeply Red Ohio 12th district.
Add to this one more things: we're talking about such a huge pick-up in Ohio, perhaps the most historic bell weather state in the country, and that helps explain why such a pick-up is, in fact, by far the BIG story.
End of story. With a personal note addendum.
On that personal note, I just want to say that while I hope Danny O'Connor wins -- and hope he does very much, to the degree that I've donated money to the campaign three times -- I have never been more annoyed by the fundraising tactics of a candidate as I have by his team. It's bizarre. And it's not only that I can't do them justice, each one challenging Chicken Little in their angst and cries of disaster in the most childish way and big colored fonts. But also that email after email after email after email after email after email after email have come pouring in.
How hyperbolic is it? Here's a brief passage from just one email yesterday, with a subject line, "We're DONE." It was preceded an hour earlier by one titled, "All hope is lost." (Seriously.) Then later in the day, there was an email with the Subject line, "final request Robert" -- and four requests have come in since. So, honestly, I'm not joking about this. It's bizarre. So much so that it's almost at the point of adorable, in an annoying kind of way. But as I said, this is the level of hyperbole in only one miniscule passage...keeping in mind that there's been a pick-up of 37 points here --
And this is a mere two sentences from just one email in a non-stop barrage.
Mind you, I hope he wins and, as I said, have even donated to him three times, as I saw the race continue to tightem. But I finally got fed up and sent the following email reply to one especially-galling request. I know it had zero impact, if it even got read at all, but I had to send it or my head might have exploded --
I hope you win. It’s important you win. And I understand why you’re sending out SO many fund-raising emails. You’re in a difficult fight and a difficult situation. I get it.
But they’re whiney, infantile and insulting. Ten emails today alone – the previous one asking “Why are we sending this ONE email?” One?? I got TEN today!
But worst of all was this latest which is below – chastising me with “WHY WHY WHY aren’t you donating"??!! I have donated THREE TIMES to your campaign. I’m sure many others have, too, if not more times. In fact, the main reason you even have our email addresses is because we have donated. So, to have you finger wag at me is profoundly wrong-headed.
If you want to be a Congressman, a public leader, act like it. Not someone petulant and childish on a guilt trip.
And know that the problem with sending TEN emails in a day means people will stop reading them. Which might be one reason WHY WHY WHY money has stopped coming in.
I hope you win. It’s a very hard race. There are about 435 of them. Make yours stand out, rather than piss off your supporters.
And yes, I hope he wins. And I do understand why they're fighting for money. But keep in mind that you haven't seen any of the unending emails to understand how insulting and infantile they are. As were those more piling in yesterday, insulting one's intelligence by being so laughably contradictory (First noting that they're ahead by only one point. But then bemoaning that after Trump's appearance there a few days before, "Independents have left us in droves." Which seems very odd since they were actually down by a point before Trump showed up, and are now up. And all the more odd since it's unlikely that a local Congressional race is actually doing daily polling, most especially so meticulously that they know Independents are supposedly leaving them "in droves"...) Then there was the email over the weekend that said, "We only need $25,000 -- and today one that said "All we need is $50,000." And those are just two of their probably 75 emails I've received over the past two weeks.
I do hope Danny O'Connor wins. It's important that he wins. It's important that as many Democrats as possible win. And I understand their desperation in such a close race. But I stand by my comment: Perhaps when you send SO many emails, that could be why many people stop reading them.
And again, I dearly hope he wins.
But at least the emails will stop after Tuesday. Unless this is a perpetual motion sort of thing. And until 2020 rolls around...
UPDATE: After posting this article, I went out for three hours. I just got back. There are four more new emails from the Danny O'Connor campaign... I still dearly hope he wins. I'm still glad I donated to him three times. But dear God, make it stop!!
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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