Can Democrats take back the Ohio House this decade?

The Washington Post’s political blog, The Fix, had a post yesterday explaining why the US House of Representatives in unlikely to switch to Democrat control in the next decade, or at least the Democrats face an uphill climb in trying to make it happen. The reason is simply because there are very few competitive, or swing, districts left to compete for. You can read the post here.

I thought I might take a similar look at the Ohio House. The situation is slightly different, but like the U.S. House, Democrats have quite the challenge ahead of them. Using our own partisan voter index, which includes the ten most recent statewide elections (minus Supreme Court), we find that there are 60 Republican-leaning and 39 Democratic-leaning districts. Coincidentally, or maybe not coincidentally, that’s the exact partisan makeup of the current Ohio House.

So can the Democrats cut into that 60-seat GOP majority and eventually create a majority of their own? Upon further analysis, by defining a swing district as +/- 5 points as the Cook Political Report does, the Republicans start off with a 35 to 31 advantage in safe seats, leaving 33 swing districts up for grabs. While four seats is a nice start for Republicans, a majority should still be within reach for Democrats with a favorable political environment.

But General Assembly races are very different from congressional races, and the +/- 5 definition of a swing district is probably too high. A better number might be +/- 3 points, because there is currently no Republican or Democrat that holds a seat that leans more than three points toward the other party. In that case, the Republicans have 45 safe seats and the Democrats have 36. Of the 18 remaining swing districts, only three lean Democratic. Essentially, Democrats would have to win those three plus 11 of the other 15 to take a majority. Winning 11 Republican-leaning districts is no small task.

Further compounding the problem for Democrats in the short term is their current financial disadvantage. As of the latest filing in mid-June, the House Democratic Caucus had $265k on hand, while House Republicans had over $5 million.

So to answer the original question, there are enough competitive swing seats for Democrats to eventually take back the Ohio House, but it would likely take strong political winds at their back.

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