Good golly, Ohio

Golly, the political landscape of Ohio is confounding.

I say that as a lifelong Ohioan who knows that’s about as true as a presidential tweet. I’m going to give it a go anyway and see how long I can keep it up, as that’s the current national narrative about my home state.

One Buckeye, two Buckeyes, three Buck–

What am I doing? I don’t even like buckeyes. The nuts, I mean. I am not referring to human nuts, of whom there are many, I’m sure.

The race in the traditionally Republican 12th Congressional District has inspired more headlines in the past week than the rescue cat who returned the favor and saved her family of four from a three-story fire. That didn’t really happen, but you were about to Google it, weren’t you? I get it. I do. Most of us have reached the point where a fearless feline could restore our faith in, well, somebody.

This race here in Ohio, which you’ve most likely heard about, was what we call a “special” one. Certainly, as Midwesterners, we don’t mean that in a braggadocio way. The congressman who held the seat decided it would be a great idea not to serve out his term, thus triggering an election to fill the open seat through December. He is a Republican, and for some obscure, unfathomable reason, he apparently thought this is an increasingly bad time to be one in Congress.

As Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham recently told The New York Times: “We’re bleeding among women, and the enthusiasm factor for Democrats is worth 7 or 8 points, and sometimes more. If I was a House guy in an R+10 or less seat (meaning someone who represents a district where Donald Trump won by at least 10 percentage points in 2016), I’d be getting on the phone and raising money and putting a sign on my dog.”

Goodness. Graham is from South Carolina, and I can’t speak for the people there, but I can assure you that hanging a sign on your dog here in Ohio is just two highway stops from forcing him to ride in a crate on the roof of the family car. We see how that worked out for Mitt Romney in 2012. Barack Obama beat him by 3 points.

As I write this, nearly 24 hours has passed since the polls closed in that 12th District race. It’s so close there’s still no winner. This, for a seat that hasn’t been held by a Democrat since 1983, in a district that Trump won by 11 points.

You can see why the pundits are going nuts right now, and I’m not referring to buckeyes. What does it mean, for Ohio and for the country, that this race is so close?

I don’t think we can tell for sure. Ohio is a big state, full of pockets of unpredictability. It’s who we are.

What we do know is that in this race, Democrat Danny O’Connor campaigned on bedrock economic issues, such as affordable health care, which Trump continues to chip away at, and protecting Social Security and Medicare, which are always in Republican crosshairs.

Republican Troy Balderson, on the other hand, supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He was open to extending the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare until he saw how that was playing with all the Ohioans who make their living working harder than he ever will.


Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism.