It takes a certain force of will to turn away, even briefly, from the burlesque of Donald Trump’s transition into the presidency. But that’s not the entirety of U.S. politics, just as his election wasn’t the lone political story of 2016. Other contests had important lessons. One especially draws my eye.
It was a gigantic win for Republicans, who will use it as a model. But Democrats can learn as much from it, because it mirrored some mistakes they made nationwide.
I’m referring to Sen. Rob Portman’s re-election in Ohio. His seat was one that Democrats identified early as a potential steal, and through much of 2015 and 2016, political analysts tagged the race as one of the most competitive in the country. But he ended up winning by 21 points.
Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Ohio by a smaller margin of 8 points, so Portman didn’t merely surf a Republican wave. And while the Democratic Party essentially gave up on the race two months before Election Day, diverting money elsewhere, that didn’t fully explain the size of Portman’s victory. Nor did his formidable war chest of funds.