By Colleen O’Connor
Wow! Everyone is singing a new tune.
The song “Oh What A Night,” has new meaning.
As does the classic Irish lament, “Oh, Danny Boy.”
Written about the loss of a son, the classic song has taken on a new, celebratory meaning after a Democratic candidate, Danny O’Connor, forced a “too close to call” election result in a district Republicans have held, with one exception, since the 1930s!
O’Connor’s performance has resonated, not just throughout the Irish community, but into the hearts of those believing the Democrats can take back the House.
Tuesday’s Ohio special election has generated more ringside drama than any heavyweight boxing match that goes the distance. Blow for blow, this is a stunner. Especially since Donald Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2016 and endorsed O’Connor’s opponent.
“With twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats, this district should have been a slam dunk for the GOP, and the fact that we are still counting ballots is an ominous sign for their prospects in November,” Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement.
As recently as June, a Monmouth University poll showed the Republican, Troy Balderson, ahead by 10 points. But today the race is still officially “too close to call,” due to the only 1,700 votes separating the two candidates with 8,500 absentee and provisional ballots as yet uncounted.
Under an Ohio statute, the final votes cannot be counted until 10 days after the fact—Aug. 18. Plus, if the result is within .05 percent of the total votes cast, a recount is mandated.
If the Republican is declared the winner, he will serve in Congress for just three months and face O’Connor again in November. Meanwhile, O’Connor is already campaigning in his favorite precincts.
Those favorite districts hold “the highest-income and best-educated elements of the electorate — those deeply uneasy with President Trump and showing the most interest in voting.”
This is an ominous sign for Republicans.
And the turnout gap is even worse for the GOP. The less-populated, conservative, rural counties of the Republican base had a turnout of between 27 percent and 32 percent. The fastest growing, highly educated suburbs had a 42 percent turnout. And those suburbs favored O’Connor “bigly,” as Trump would say.
Then there is the money divide. O’Connor refused to accept any political action committee money, while outraising his opponent in individual contributions.
Balderson, however, benefitted greatly from outside spending by Republican groups that dwarfed Democrats efforts.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican” super PAC” aligned with retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, spent $3 million, including $2.7 million on television ads, and has had staffers on the ground in the district since June.
The Republican National Committee spent $650,000 and organized over 700 volunteers in get out the vote. In the two and a half weeks since Trump endorsed Balderson, America First Action, a Super PAC that advocates for his legislative agenda, spent $200,000 investing in voter turnout.”
And still the result was too close to call.
There are now almost 60 such potential pick-up districts where the numbers and history are even worse for Republicans than Ohio’s 12th District. The Democrats only need 24 to retake the House.
Understandably, the national GOP leadership has already warned, “Any Republican running for Congress getting vastly outraised by an opponent needs to start raising more money.”
The Republicans cannot throw as much money into these 60 at-risk seats as they did for the O’Connor/Balderson race.
Imagine it. A young man of Irish heritage scoring a near knock-out—in a Republican stronghold, without PAC money—against the power of a sitting President.
O’Connor even declared he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for the next Speaker. The always underestimated minority leader responded in support of all the Democrats running—even those opposing her: “Just win, baby.”
Pelosi, the most prolific fundraiser in Democratic history is already singing: “Oh, Danny Boy”and “What a Night.”
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.