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Steve Chabot proves he's a 'wily survivor' again, but the streak might not last forever

Posted at 6:48 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 18:56:45-05

Flipping Republican Rep. Steve Chabot’s House seat would have been a coup for Ohio Democrats, who outspent him by over $1 million and devoted copious resources to bolstering his opponent, Kate Schroder.

Would have. On Tuesday, Chabot beat Schroder by an even larger margin — 7.5 points — than he had beaten previous challenger Aftab Pureval in 2018. By the time he faces another, he’ll have spent more than 25 years in Congress.

“I’m just happy to be able to support the people who I’m honored to represent, and I’ve done it for a long time,” Chabot said Wednesday afternoon.

Chabot, originally a lawyer, was first elected to represent Ohio’s 1st congressional district in 1995. He kept the job until 2009, when he lost the spot to Democrat Steve Driehaus, but reclaimed it in 2011 after the district was redrawn.

The political statistics site FiveThirtyEight found he has largely voted along party lines over the course of his career, faithfully supporting Republican presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

“He has shown himself to be a wily survivor,” University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven said of Chabot on Wednesday. “He has a Harry Houdini power to work his way out of these political jams, and he did it again in 2020.”

So why did Democrats think his seat was vulnerable? Ohio’s 1st congressional district includes Cincinnati, which has a solid Democratic base, as well as parts of more conservative Warren County.

Niven said Democrats poured cash into Schroder’s campaign — she raised $3.2 million to Chabot’s $2.1 million — because they believed Democratic voters in Hamilton County would outnumber their conservative counterparts in Warren.

They were wrong this time, Niven said. However, Chabot’s political survival might be more precarious when districts are redrawn yet again in response to 2020 census data.

Chabot might be competing for a different swath of voters in 2022 than he did this year. Niven believes that could make him vulnerable.

“(The future 1st district) is very unlikely to be the Cincinnati-plus-Warren County combination that Steve Chabot represents right now,” Niven said. “Warren County is a key source of Republican votes that kept him in office. If this race were strictly about Hamilton County, Steve Chabot would have lost.”

Chabot said his vision of the future was more immediate than 2022. He hopes to pass another COVID-19 relief bill that will give Americans stimulus payments before the end of the year.

Beyond that, “I’m determined to continue to represent the people of this district to the best of my ability,” he said.