Republicans held on to both House seats in yesterday’s special elections to replace deceased GOP congressmen in Ohio and Virginia. Although Democrats hoped for an upset pick-up in Ohio 5, both seats are located in Republican stronghold districts. Democrat Robin Weirauch lost Ohio 5 to Republican Bob Latta by 56.8 to 42.9 percent, about the same percentage she received in her ’06 run for the seat. However, Dems can take some quailified comfort from the results, as Stuart Rothenberg explains:
Democrats…forced Republicans to spend heavily to defend a solidly Republican district. Part of the Democrats’ 2008 House strategy obviously is to force the NRCC to play in as many districts as possible, bleeding the under-financed GOP dry and, possibly, sneaking off with a few extra seats next fall.
The NRCC was able to hold the Ohio district, in part, by outspending the DCCC. It will not be able to do that very often next year. But before you give the DCCC a trophy for forcing the NRCC to spend money on the race, remember that the Democrats just tossed away $250,000 in Ohio 5 and have nothing to show for it.
The NRCC spent about $400,000 to hold the seat according to The Toledo Blade wrap-up. As DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen put it,
Spending 20 percent of their cash on hand to retain one of the most Republican districts in the country — priceless.
Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, adds “The GOP had to scramble to win a special election that should have been a cake walk.”
But Rothenberg cautions against reading too much into the special elections:
Given that GOP special election nominees held reliably Republican seats, all the results prove is that Democrats will have a hard time winning solidly Republican districts next year. That suggests that Democrats aren’t likely to gain another 30 or 40 seats in 2008, hardly an earth-shattering conclusion.
Ohio 5 has been held by the GOP since the 1930’s. The DCCC spent $0 in the VA 1st district race, which Bush won with 60 percent of the vote in ’04. The Republicans held the VA seat by a 61-37 percent margin.