As far as primary election days go, Tuesday, August 7th was huge. It was a three-dimensional affair, one could say. On the one hand, Democratic primaries have become a test of how far the socialist/progressive wing of the party is tipping the scales against the more moderate establishment that, itself, is constantly moving further left in order to survive. On the other hand, the Republican primaries are about how motivated the base will be in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.
Additionally, GOP contests have become a measure of how the Trump doctrine is faring against the more traditional Republican wing. The Ohio special election added a third dimension to this latest round of voting.
The Ohio Special Election Rollercoaster
The highly-anticipated vote to fill Ohio’s 12th congressional district seat is still yet to be decided. With 100% of precincts reporting, Troy Balderson had not managed to pull off a decisive win to keep the seat for Republicans. Danny O’Connor – the beneficiary of a monumental Democratic Party effort to flip this deep red seat – came up just less than 1800 votes short, allowing the Republican to declare victory.
Provisional and absentee ballots have yet to be counted, however. Together, they represent more than 8,000 votes. In percentage terms, Balderson leads by 0.9 and the threshold for an automatic recount is 0.5%. Thus, O’Connor could still close the gap enough to force a recount. Due to Ohio’s election rules, the outstanding ballots will not be counted until August 18.
Regardless of which candidate takes the seat, the two will face off again in November but Democrats are already spinning this race as a huge blow to Republicans. By any measure, this should not have been a competitive race. From the opposite point of view, Balderson could be said to have won a comeback victory – perhaps thanks to a late rallying of the base by President Donald Trump himself. Democrats badly wanted this seat and their candidate outraised and outspent Balderson and had been polling comfortably ahead of him.
This Ohio district could well be an indicator of how things will shape up in November, as many had suggested; Democrats surging but, in the end, falling a whisker short of taking Congress.
Primary Results: Best of the Rest
Elsewhere, primaries in Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, and Washington spanned House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. In Kansas, Governor Jeff Colyer failed to see off a challenge by Trump-endorsed Kris Kobach, although that primary has yet to be called, with Kobach leading by 0.1%.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill cruised to victory in the Missouri primary – as expected – and will be challenged in November by the state’s current Attorney General; Republican Josh Hawley. Bill Shuette comfortably won the GOP primary for governor of Michigan and will face Democrat Gretchen Widmer in November. Widmer’s easy win over progressive Abdul El-Sayed – who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and socialist wunderkind Alexandria Ocasio Cortez – is another indication that the extreme left of the Democratic Party does not possess the strength or momentum it pretends to command.
Political Pundits justify their existence by reading the tea leaves and drawing dramatic conclusions from political events such as primary election days. If any conclusions are to be drawn from this latest round of voting, it is that, when the dust settles after the 2018 midterms, everybody and nobody will have won. The Democrats will come close enough to victory to spin it as a victory, without actually prevailing. The Republicans may hold on but by margins so thin as to be transparent, leaving them little reason to gloat. As for the real or imagined new wave of young socialists, they may turn out to be all bark and no bite.