There were two special Congressional elections today, in Ohio and Virginia. Both districts are generally Republican, but both states are also considered to be trending toward the Democrats. So the Dems were hopeful that they might increase their House majority by winning one or both of the open seats. Yesterday, MSNBC, which made a corporate decision to go in the tank for the Democrats a couple of years ago, was hoping that the Ohio election, in particular, would be a milestone:
If Democrats can win a special congressional election tomorrow in a GOP district in Ohio, doesn’t that tell us that Ohio may not be as in play as the Republicans would like to believe for 2008?
So if the Democrat won today, Ohio could safely be tallied for Hillary in 2008!
As the Washington Post’s Cillizza noted on Sunday: “Despite the heavy spending, strategists for both parties sought to play down expectations in advance of the vote. Republicans noted that Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) carried the 5th District in 2006. Democrats pushed back, arguing that the very fact that House Republicans are being forced to spend from their very limited war chest is a victory. Should Latta lose, which remains unlikely, it would be a powerful symbolic blow for House Republicans seeking to reassure their members that 2008 won’t be a repeat of 2006.”
Happily, the Democrats’ hopes were frustrated. The vote in Ohio wasn’t close, with the Republican, Robert Latta, winning by a 57%-43% margin. In Virginia, the result was even more one-sided, with Republican Rob Wittman winning by a landslide 63% to 35% margin.
What does it mean? Obviously, one shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from a couple of special elections in traditionally Republican districts. But the fact is that the Democrats spent a lot of money–money is currently their biggest advantage–in hopes of scoring upsets in one or both of these contests. Had they done so, the results would have been trumpeted as evidence that voters are deserting the Republicans in droves. Instead, reality asserted itself.
Much like the Republicans of 1994, the Democrats post-2006 are misinterpreting the “mandate” the voters gave them last year. The American electorate hasn’t suddenly swerved to the Left, much as Democrats might wish it were so.