Democrats believe their performance in Tuesday’s too-close-to-call special election for an Ohio congressional district is a strong sign that they can win back the House majority in November.
The party argues that there are dozens of districts where Democrats should have a better chance of taking back seats this fall than in the Ohio district, which President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE won by 11 points in 2016 and which has been in GOP hands for more than 30 years.
Trump lost 23 districts to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE that are held by GOP lawmakers, and won another 45 districts represented by Republicans by a narrower margin than in Tuesday’s battleground.
That adds up to a total of 68 congressional districts where Democrats can argue, at least, that they face a more favorable climate than in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. Democrats need to gain 23 seats to win the majority.
“If anything, tonight's #OH12 result reinforces our view that Dems are substantial favorites to retake the House in November,” Dave Wasserman, a House analyst for Cook Political Report, tweeted early Wednesday morning.
To be sure, some of those districts could end up being tougher for Democrats to win.
Many are being defended by incumbents, and those seats are generally tougher to win than open races.
But there’s no doubt that Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor’s (D) tight race against GOP state Sen. Troy Balderson has bolstered Democratic hopes.
O’Connor trailed Balderson by only 1,754 votes, or less than a percentage point, in a too-close-to-call count a day after polls closed.
Eight of the 45 districts that Trump won by a narrower margin than Ohio's 12th are open races where the Republican incumbent is retiring, including two in New Jersey, and a district each in Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Twelve of the districts were won by Trump by less than 5 points in 2016, many of them in heavily suburban areas where Trump could be vulnerable.
Two of the 12 are perennial swing seats in Iowa held by GOP Reps. Rod Blum and David YoungDavid Edmund YoungFirst-term Democrat presses for coronavirus relief agreement this year Axne wins reelection in Iowa Democrats lead in 3 of 4 Iowa House races: poll MORE. Trump won both Iowa seats by more than 3 points.
Another seat to watch is in Minnesota. Trump won Rep. Jason LewisJason LewisRep. Angie Craig defends Minnesota House seat in race clouded by legal confusion Smith wins reelection in Minnesota Klobuchar 'feeling good' about Democrats taking control of Senate MORE’s (R-Minn.) Twin Cities metro area district by just a point. Lewis is seen as especially vulnerable after facing major backlash over controversial comments he’s made on his old radio show.
Prognosticators are already starting to shift seats in Democrats’ favor after the Ohio special election and a series of primaries that also took place on Tuesday.
The Cook Political Report, for example, moved Washington’s 3rd District, currently held by GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble The Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out Kinzinger says Trump 'winning' because many Republicans 'have remained silent' MORE, to “lean Republican” from “likely Republican.” The seat was won by Trump in 2016 by 7.4 points.
Cook also moved Kansas’s 3rd District, held by Republican Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderBottom line Bottom line Bottom line MORE to “toss-up” from “lean Republican” after progressive Democrat Sharice Davids won the Democratic nomination. Clinton won the seat by a single point in 2016.
Problems in the suburbs could leave the GOP relying even more on rural voters.
That was a pattern seen in Ohio’s 12th District, where the O’Connor ran up the score in his base of Franklin County, which includes the Columbus suburbs, while Balderson overperformed in more rural areas of the district like Muskingum County.
Fundraising is also another concern for Republicans. Balderson was outraised by O’Connor, forcing Republican groups to spend millions defending the Ohio seat. And more than 50 Democratic House candidates outpaced GOP incumbents in the most recent fundraising quarter, a staggering number that has caused alarm among Republicans.
“While we won tonight, this remains a very tough political environment and moving forward, we cannot expect to win tough races when our candidate is being outraised,” said Corry Bliss, the executive director of Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.) that spent $2.6 million to boost Balderson and has been a pivotal player in special elections.
“Any Republican running for Congress getting vastly outraised by an opponent needs to start raising more money.”
And signs are also emerging that some Republicans who were considered to be relatively safer could be in trouble, potentially expanding the list of 68 GOP-held seats Democrats hope to make a play for.
In Washington state, Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHouse passes bill to ensure abortion access in response to Texas law Biden administration rolls out clean car goals Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban MORE, the highest-ranking GOP woman in leadership, advanced to the general election along with Democrat Lisa Brown in the state’s nonpartisan “jungle primary.”
But McMorris Rodgers showed unexpected weakness, capturing first place by only 525 votes in a district that Trump won by 13 points. The race was switched to “toss-up” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
And though early, Democrats may face an opportunity to target Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsBiden taps Damian Williams as US attorney for Manhattan New York lt. gov. says she is 'prepared to lead' following Cuomo resignation Outrage grows as Justice seeks to contain subpoena fallout MORE’s (R-N.Y.) seat after the Republican was arrested and charged with insider trading. Trump won Collins’s Buffalo-area district by 24 points.
“What every campaign now has an opportunity to do is 90 days to figure out ‘are we going to be the ones panicking with two weeks to go,’” said Matt Borges, the former chairman of the Ohio GOP, referring to the number of days left before the midterms.