Digging into the numbers can reveal trends and anomalies. In this breakdown I am comparing Tuesday’s special election to two other races; the 12th Congressional District 2014 mid-term race and, to a lesser extent I’ll explain in a moment, the 12th Congressional District 2016 Presidential election race. The data I use can be found in the election results section on the Secretary of State’s Website.
The 2014 and 2016 races involved Republican Pat Tiberi running as an incumbent vs Democrats David Tibbs and Ed Albertson. Incumbents typically enjoy the advantage in re-election races. With that said, the 12th Congressional District has been won by a Republican for the past 3 decades.
Also of note, the 2016 race saw more voters casting ballots than the 2014 and 2018 races, which is also typical as it was a Presidential election year. Because of that some votes will be motivated to get to the polls to cast their ballot that would not vote in a mid-term election year. For this comparison we will be strictly using those numbers to show the percentages of voters in the district supporting Trump vs Clinton, and if those voters showed up for the Republican in this special election.
The Numbers for 12th Congressional District Voters:
Delaware County –
2014 – 58,689 total voters; 74.78% for Tiberi vs 21.9% for Tibbs
2016 – 106,996 total voters; 69.16% for Tiberi vs 23.67% for Albertson
2016 – 106,996 total voters; 55.6% for Trump vs 39.5% for Clinton
2018 – 58,850 total voters; 53.95% for Balderson vs 45.67 for O’Connor
As you can see voter turnout in the mid-term years (2014 and 2018) is virtually the same but there is a 21 point drop in support for the Republican Candidate while the Democrat candidate picked up nearly 24 points.
We also see that Tiberi outperformed Trump in Delaware County in 2016 and that Balderson secured a slightly lower percentage of voters compared to Trump this year.
Trump visited Delaware County to stump for Balderson the weekend before the election and the Republican Party is claiming that his presence motivated voters to get to the polls in Delaware County. If their assessment of the situation is correct than voter turnout for Balderson could have been even worse in this traditionally GOP-friendly county.
Franklin County – (O’Connor’s home county)
2014 – 70,915 total voters; 60.89% for Tiberi vs 34% for Tibbs
2016 – 142,804 total voters; 48.57% for Tiberi vs 33.86% for Albertson
2016 – 142,804 total voters; 37.9% for Trump vs 56.8% for Clinton
2018 – 71,291 total voters; 34.55% for Balderson vs 65.01% for O’Connor
Franklin County is the home of Democrat Candidate Danny O’Connor. How much that played into his success with voters is unknown, although the Republicans claim that is why he did so well here.
However, traditionally speaking, Franklin County has overwhelmingly supported Pat Tiberi in the past. In 2014 Tiberi won Franklin County in a landslide. And while he did see a drop in support from 2014 to 2016 he performed similarly to Trump that year.
Balderson underperformed in all three cases, coming in with just 34.55% of the vote this year; which is a 180 degree flip from 2014.
A shift this drastic could happen for a number of reasons, perhaps as a result of several factors coming together to create that perfect storm. If this is a long-term shift will only be verifiable after future elections take place.
Licking County –
2014 – 47,090 total voters; 70.28% for Tiberi vs 25.78% for Tibbs
2016 – 84,629 total voters; 67.55% for Tiberi vs 23.41% for Albertson
2016 – 84,629 total voters; 62.1% for Trump vs 33.2% for Clinton
2018 – 38,575 total voters; 60.84% for Balderson vs 38.4% for O’Connor
The first thing to notice is that Licking County, and this will be the case with the rest of the counties in the district, did not see as many voters in the special election as voted in the mid-term election in 2014 held at the normal time in November.
With that being said, you will also notice that the voting percentages stay relatively the same with both sides either gaining or losing support by 13 points or less. The biggest swing of these five counties is here in Licking where Balderson once again underperformed Tiberi’s percentages by his highest amount among the final five counties, dropping 10 points. Meanwhile, O’Connor picked up 13 points in support over Tibbs from 2014.
Marion County –
2014 – 2,990 total voters; 75.68% for Tiberi vs 20.43% for Tibbs
2016 – 4,904 total voters; 69.55% for Tiberi vs 15.92% for the Albertson
2016 – 4,904 total voters; 71.8% for Trump vs 23.6% for Clinton
2018 – 1,800 total voters; 67.72% for Balderson vs 31.22% for O’Connor
Here we see Balderson continuing the trend of losing support as it transfers over to Democrat O’Connor, this time an 8 point drop and an 11 point gain over the 2014 results. Balderson also did not reach that same percentage of voters that Trump did, but he was within a few points.
Morrow County –
2014 – 9,692 total voters; 73.55% for Tiberi vs 21.71% for Tibbs
2016 – 16,820 total voters; 72.54% for Tiberi vs 17.69% for Albertson
2016 – 16,820 total voters; 72.5% for Trump vs 22.8% for Clinton
2018 – 7,355 total voters; 69.95% for Balderson vs 29.15% for O’Connor
A slight degradation of support by percentage of vote for Balderson here in Morrow County, while O’Connor picks up several points.
Muskingum County – (Balderson’s home county)
2014 – 13,672 total voters; 67.21% for Tiberi vs 28.85% for Tibbs
2016 – 24-922 total voters; 64.36% for Tiberi vs 24.65% for Albertson
2016 – 24-922 total voters; 61.9% for Trump vs 61.9% for Trump vs 33.3% for Clinton
2018 – 11,719 total voters; 66.34% for Balderson vs 32.78% for O’Connor
Muskingum County is the home county for Troy Balderson. He expected to do well here and he did. While he didn’t quite reach the same percentage of vote that Tiberi reached in the last mid-term election; Balderson did eclipse Tiberi and Trump in support by percentage when compared to the 2016 race. This is the only county that Balderson outperformed President Trump.
Meanwhile, O’Connor also made gains picking up nearly four points over Tibbs results from 2014 and 8 points over Albertson in 2016.
The night before the election Balderson told a group of supporters at a rally in Muskingum County that he wanted to win the county with 80% of the vote. That clearly did not happen.
Richland County –
2014 – 18,033 total voters; 65.56% for Tiberi vs 30.68% for Tibbs
2016 – 33,269 total voters; 57.30% for Tiberi vs 27.74 for Albertson
2016 – 33,269 total voters; 62.6% for Trump vs 32.9% for Clinton
2018 – 12,931 total voters; 58.66% for Balderson vs 40.52% for O’Connor
Here in Richland County we see trends for both candidates in Tuesday’s special election continue to show. Balderson lost several points over Tiberi’s 2014 result and pulled even with his 2016 showing; while O’Connor eclipsed both Tibbs and Albertson’s results from 2014 and 2016 respectively and he outperformed Clinton’s showing from two years ago for a net gain of 10 points since 2014.
Spokesperson for the Republican National Committee Mandi Merritt says every candidate is different, and poses that could play a role in why we saw the levels of support fluctuate this year for Balderson compared to Tiberi.
Chairman for the Ohio Democratic Party David Pepper agrees that candidates matter. He says O’Connor is a great candidate and it shows with the support he has picked up across the district in areas that normally vote for Republicans.
Whatever the reason, overall Balderson has underperformed when compared to both Tiberi and Trump at nearly every turn except in his home county. O’Connor has outperformed his predecessors pulling in more of the voting percentage than Clinton did at every turn except in Balderson’s county where O’Connor underperformed compared to Clinton by half a percentage point.
Does all of this indicate a Blue Wave is coming this November?
That is hard to say, because people cast their vote for a variety of reasons; and because those reasons are seldom shared openly and widely, one can only speculate.
Pepper says these results make him believe that a Blue Wave could be created with good candidates and hard work. Merritt doesn’t believe a Blue Wave is coming and says the Republican Party is working toward defying history this November.
If voter turnout for the special election on Tuesday is compared to voter turnout for all mid-term elections going back to 2000 in the 12th Congressional District, you would notice that it would rank as the second lowest.
Here in Ohio mid-term elections line up with Gubernatorial Elections. Despite the high profile reason for voters to go to the polls, turnout in the 12th Congressional District in mid-term or Gubernatorial years is clearly lower than in Presidential Election years.
2000 – 263,386 voters 2002 – 181,689 voters
2004 – 321,046 voters 2006 – 254,689 voters
2008 – 360,388 voters 2010 – 269,180 voters
2012 – 368,474 voters 2014 – 221,081 voters
2016 – 377,534 voters
If this year’s Gubernatorial race, and the state of the nation, motivates voters to come head to the polls in November as it did in 2010 would could see roughly another 65,000-67,000 voters this fall in the 12th Congressional District.
Does any of this matter outside of the 12th Congressional District?
It could. Reports of many people who turned up to vote on election day only to find out they couldn’t because they didn’t live in the district show engagement is happening as a result of television and radio advertising.
All of the grassroots efforts for the special election targeted to people living in the district, otherwise it’s a waste of resources. So when people from outside the area are convinced to vote that shows interest on some level. What their reason for showing up to the polls is just as varied as those who could vote, so again, it would be speculative to say their turn out would benefit one party or the other.
As such, both parties say they plan to continue to fund their efforts to reach voters in the District, and soon beyond for other races that will be on the November ballot, in an attempt to either replicate what happened on Tuesday or exceed their results.