It appears that Democrat Paul Hackett has narrowly lost to Republican Jean Schmidt in the special election to fill the Second Congressional District in OH, despite the fact that the district was overwhelmingly Republican. According to Charlie Cook, Bush carried it with 64% in 2004 and only four House Democrats represent districts this Republican. At the end of the day, Hackett only lost by 52-48. I'm sure that Republicans will spin this as a victory is a victory is a victory, but Hackett's performance really is amazing.
So what does this portend for next year's election? Hackett had some real advantages, in particular, he was a Marine who, until recently, had served in Iraq. In addition, the Ohio Republican party has been tainted by the recent "Coingate" scandal. Those sorts of things aren't likely to occur in many other House races. On the other hand, Hackett's showing will undoubtedly pump up Democratic enthusiasm. In particular, that Hackett came so close in such a Republican district will provide a fillip to Democratic efforts to recruit quality candidates to challenge Republican incumbents. Good politicians are strategic and don't want to risk their careers on futile races against entrenched incumbents. And if good candidates don't run against them, the incumbents are even more secure. Democrats can only hope that Hackett's performance helps to break this cycle by convincing their strong potential candidates that other Republican incumbents may also be vulnerable, thus making a challenge less risky. And if the Democrats have any shot at making strong gains in the House and the Senate, they have to recruit a stable of quality challengers.