WASHINGTON — When retired fighter pilot Amy McGrath launched her congressional campaign against Kentucky Republican Andy Barr on Aug. 1, the reaction was, at least for a political novice, pretty seismic: Within a few days, her announcement video had received more than 1.2 million views on YouTube.
MSNBC put the Democrat on TV. NPR interviewed her. Not bad for a political newcomer.
But as Democrats try to recruit strong candidates in advance of the 2018 midterm elections, it’s hard to know whether the enthusiasm like that generated over McGrath will translate into victory.
On paper, it looks good for Democrats: First-term presidents traditionally have fared poorly during the midterms, and President Donald Trump had a 61 percent disapproval rating as of Aug. 1, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll.
But the reality for Democrats is tougher than it looks.
Years of Republican-controlled gerrymandering of U.S. House districts and Democrats’ struggle to maintain their traditional working-class base have caused the party to lose ground in recent elections.
According to the Cook Political Report, only 10 House seats are true toss-ups: in California, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Colorado, among others. No Ohio seats are listed.
Not in danger are central Ohio’s three members of the House: Republicans Pat Tiberi of southern Delaware County and Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington, and Democrat Joyce Beatty, who lives in Jefferson Township just outside Gahanna.
But the same report also finds that two GOP-held Ohio seats have at least the potential to become competitive: The 1st District in southwestern Ohio, represented by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, and the 16th District in northeastern Ohio, a seat held by Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who will not seek re-election to instead run for governor.
In Chabot’s district, rumors of runs by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune and…