But fundamentals matter—and so many of them are locked into the Democrats’ favor, big-time. It’s impossible to ignore the consistently supercharged Democratic turnout in election after election, from swing districts to those fought on conservative turf. Even if you look to the larger contests (like last year’s governor’s races) as a stronger indicator, the results are highly encouraging for the Democratic Party. If in our polarized times, Democrats simply win most GOP-held Clinton seats and pick off competitive open-seat races where Republicans retired, they’re well on their way to a narrow majority.
To that end, the results of an August special election outside Columbus, Ohio (home to National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Steve Stivers) will be a crucial test of whether Republicans have made gains in recent weeks. On paper, the exurban district is a bit more competitive than the Pittsburgh-area seat Republicans lost in an embarrassing upset two months ago. But Republicans also nominated their strongest candidate as their standard-bearer—state senator Troy Balderson—giving them no excuses if they badly underperform again. Early polling suggests the race between Balderson and Democratic Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor will be highly competitive.
Meanwhile, Republicans are hardly playing offense to mitigate any of their losses—a dynamic that always appears in wave-election years.