Will OH-12 flip to the Democrats next week?

Last year I wrote a multi-part series about how, in my view, it was very, very possible for a Democrat to win my district, the Ohio 12th Congressional district. This despite the fact that the district is sharply gerrymandered to favor Republicans. This despite the fact that the Republican routinely carried two-thirds of the vote. In so doing I laid out a multipart road map of how, in my view, a Democratic candidate could win.

As I write this, we are six days from the special election to pick Tiberi’s successor and, while there are no guarantees until the election actually, you know, happens, the Democratic candidate, Danny O’Connor, stands a pretty good chance at flipping one of the country’s deepest red districts blue:

In the special election to be held next Tuesday, Balderson the Republican has 44% support and O’Connor the Democrat has 43% support among all potential voters . . . A relatively large 11% remain undecided. A little over one month ago, Balderson had a 43% to 33% advantage among all potential voters . . .  a standard model that looks like a typical midterm voter pool shows the race basically tied at 46% for Balderson and 45% for O’Connor . . . In a Democratic “surge” model akin to turnout patterns that have been seen in some but not all special elections held since 2017, O’Connor has 46% and Balderson has 45%. 

A tossup to be sure, but again, since the district was gerrymandered, the Republican has won with a margin of no lower than 27 points and by as many as 40 points. 

I cannot say that I have been fully on board with everything Danny O’Connor has done as a candidate. He has, contrary to my prescription last year, tracked to the center in several respects and has not made economic populism a central part of his campaign. That said, my prescriptions were based on national data and voter attitudes while he no doubt has far more accurate data about this district. My gut instincts about it all may be wrong and, even if he does not win, I will in no way be playing any “I told you so” games. To do so would be like the football fan who calls plays from his couch and it’s not worth much at this time of the campaign.

All I know for sure is that this performance, at this moment, seems damn nigh astounding. 

If O’Connor, or any other Democrat, were to lose next week’s special election by fewer than 20 points it would be a historic underachievement for the Republican in this district. If he were to lose by single digits, it would be a harbinger of doom for the GOP in the runup to this fall’s elections.

That O’Connor may actually win this damn thing places us someplace extraordinary indeed.

​(if you want to support O’Connor, do so here)

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.