A Win Is A Win Is A Win

Ohio Republican Troy Balderson


How Long Are We Supposed To Consider “Close” To Be Impressive?

While Republican Troy Balderson, and President Trump in a Tweet (of course taking all the credit for himself) are claiming victory in a special election in Ohio, there are still more absentee and provisional ballots that have not yet been processed than his margin of victory. So officially, it’s still considered too close to call, and may be for some time. Leading some news organizations in the state to call Balderson the “unofficial winner”.

Right now, with 100% of precincts reporting, Balderson leads by 1,754 votes. And there are more than 5,000 absentee ballots outstanding. Which means–if our math is right–Democrat Danny O’Connor would have to win about 65% of those absentee votes in order to make up the gap. Here’s a more detailed local breakdown from the New York Times. And since every seat in Congress is up for grabs in November, it’s likely the two will start running against each other again almost immediately.

So while the Democrat turned a special House election in a district that’s been comfortably Republican for years into a nail biter, and we’re still hoping he rallies and those absentee votes accrue to him in wide margins, he still seems most likely headed for a loss.

Meaning Balderson will likely be the one going to Washington, same as if he’d won by a gargantuan margin.

And yes it’s impressive that the Democrat narrowed the Republican’s victory to 0.9 percentage points in a district Trump won by 11 points.

But that doesn’t bring Democrats one inch closer to regaining control of Congress. “Narrow margins” don’t give you a vote.

So was “Democratic morale” really the “big winner” as the Washington Post asserts this morning? Perhaps. But you know what would’ve been even a bigger winner for Democratic morale? A win.

Are we really expected to consider “close” to be a happy result? Because if that’s so Democrats have a lot of happy, but–so far–very little to show for it. Great expectations don’t count for anything unless you also deliver.

And Republicans have still managed to narrowly prevail in the majority of these special elections time after time.

The only giant exceptions were the special election for Senate in Alabama, which was truly a bizarre contest, with Republicans putting up a bona-fide pervert, who still almost won, and Democrat Conor Lamb’s House seat victory in Pennsylvania.

But look at just the win/loss and Democrats are 2-8. Can you argue it’s a strong 2-8? Maybe. But is a “participation trophy” ever really a good thing to go home with even if you expected to get creamed and instead you actually looked pretty good in your loss? Because you’re still going home…

So how long are we supposed to continue getting excited about “narrower margins”?

In order to take back the House and/or Senate Democrats are going to have to win at least a couple of dozen districts currently held by Republicans, many more if they want to claim any kind of real unified stand against Trump, even more if they want us to call it a “blue wave”. Could happen. But seems borderline ridiculous to us to talk about losses as hard evidence it will.

Democrats’ goal should be to vanquish (especially with this highly polarizing President), not just to eke out.

And there’s danger of these near-victories leading to complacency. Wresting some control back from Republicans and Trump will take effort and fight and ugliness at times. Not smooth confidence that the numbers will take care of themselves.

Even if we’re wrong, what’s wrong with approaching it from the angle that Democrats should’ve won more of these close special election contests than they did–by virtue of the fact that they came so close— and thus need to fight harder? Not: “of course they’re going to win the easy seats because they’re almost winning the hard ones.”

What does that mean? It means if you’re a Democrat, get out there. Do something more. Phone banking, text banking, convincing your apathetic friends to vote. Anything more than you’re doing right now.

That’s not to say Democrats aren’t making strides, especially in off-year general elections. They flipped the governorship of New Jersey. And according to Politifact, in all races, not just federal races, they’ve gained 3 or 4 dozen seats. Still, since Democrats lost nearly 1000 seats (including State Legislatures) during the Obama years, they’ve still got a ways to go.

And it’s particularly crucial this year because remember what we keep saying: unless the Democratic victory is absolute, the Republicans coming in will be a much more radical bunch of Trump cultists than we’ve got now.

Speaking of which, in Kansas, a primary contest where Trump “golden boy” Kris Kobach is challenging a more conventional Republican who currently sits in the Governor’s seat is also too close to call at time of publication of this newsletter. Right now Kobach is ahead by 500 or so votes. A final tally is expected within the hour.


Kansas Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Kris Kobach (l) hobnobs at the first meeting of the now defunct “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” back in July of last year.


And we don’t buy into the argument either that it’d be good news for Democrats if the Trump crony wins the Republican nomination for Governor of Kansas. Even though Kobach has proven himself to be wildly incompetent and a conspiracy theory spouting lunatic, he hasn’t actually lost yet. And until that happens, he actually might win. Which is a risk Trump and his minions are willing to take.

And it’s easy to see why: after all, Trump wasn’t expected to win either. A narrow loss would’ve led to a lot of “think pieces” being devoted to “lessons we can learn”. But the only fact that made all the difference is he actually won.

Now, according to the Hill, Republican Senator Ted Cruz is asking Trump to come stump for him in Texas. A man who insinuated Cruz’ father was tied up in the plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy. But Cruz is feeling pressure from Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke in this fall’s midterm election, and Trump has a proven record of turning out the vote for Republicans. Could Democrats please at least win this one!