Ohio and Virginia specials provide some fodder

Those looking for any grand truths to emerge from Tuesday’s pair of special elections were largely disappointed, as both Republican winners performed about as well as their predecessors did in 2006 and roughly matched President Bush’s performance in their districts.

The intrigue was supposed to be in Ohio’s 5th district. After a lot of build-up, however, state Rep. Bob Latta (R) defeated Democrat Robin Weirauch by exactly the same count that his predecessor, the late Rep. Paul Gillmor (R), defeated Weirauch last year: 57-43.

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In Virginia, state Del. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanRepublicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel The Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs Overnight Defense: Top general briefs GOP senators on Syria plan | Senators 'encouraged' by briefing | Pence huddles with Republican allies on Syria | Trump nominee sidesteps questions on arms treaties MORE (R) won 59 percent of the vote, slightly less than the late Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R) pulled in 2006 but matching Bush’s average in the district from his two victories.

Republicans hailed the Ohio result and pointed to the fact that despite support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and top liberal interest groups like EMILY’s List, Weirauch still couldn’t make the race close.

But national Republicans were forced to spend about $450,000 on a seat in a solidly conservative district and in a situation where they don’t have money to spare.

At the end of October, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) still had more debt ($3.6 million) than cash ($2.5 million).

“Republicans were able to run up the score with their message on illegal immigration, which is the best quick-gainer in their playbook,” said David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. “But financially, there’s no denying Democrats were able to draw the NRCC offside.”

One veteran Ohio GOP campaign operative said the Latta campaign needed the help but that the situation proved harmful to the NRCC.

Democrats have a large cash advantage, from which their $250,000 investment was relatively meager.

According to Campaign Finance Institute numbers, in only one case in 2006 did the two sides spend so much money on such a lopsided result: Indiana’s 8th district, where freshman Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) won 61-39.

“You’re talking about a seat for two decades that they haven’t had to spend a dime on,” the Ohio operative said. “I think it hurt the NRCC more. You just went into this expecting that it was a Republican seat.”

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) labeled the NRCC’s need to spend in the district “priceless.”

The monetary aspect appeared to be the lone moral victory for Democrats, while Republicans made a much more full-throated attempted to spin the result in their favor.

The NRCC issued a strongly worded memo shortly after Latta won, repeating its mantra that 2006’s environment won’t be repeated in 2008.

The memo pointed out that now-Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and now-Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (D) both carried the district in 2006. But both were running in a great environment for Democrats — potentially even better than the national one, thanks to Republican former Gov. Bob Taft’s problems.

“As the 2006 narrative continues to change, Democrats are left without a winning strategy and with the stark realization that they won’t get two 2006s in a row,” the memo stated. “They have forfeited the mantle of change, and the American electorate — in red and blue districts — is restless.”