Illinois’ 12th congressional district – represented by Mike Bost (R) since his defeat of William Enyart (D) in 2014 – is another heavily white midwestern district that swung hard towards Donald Trump in 2016. Prior to Trump, some version of this district has voted for every Democratic Presidential candidate since at least Bill Clinton. After supporting Obama by 2 points over Romney in 2012, Trump won by a 15-point landslide against Hillary Clinton.
Democrats didn’t really mount a serious effort to unseat Bost in 2016. They nominated attorney and first-time candidate C.J. Baricevic, and his campaign found little traction. Outside of East St. Louis – the district’s main urban center – he attracted little support. Bost pitched himself as a labor-friendly Republican, a stance that plays well in this heavily unionized area and helped propel him to an easy victory.
Despite the district’s Democratic roots, Hillary Clinton fared little better than Baricevic. Indeed, their maps look very similar: their shared lack of support outside of East St. Louis doomed them both to double-digit losses.
On the contrary, Tammy Duckworth (D) carried the district by nearly 10-points, on her way to a 15-point statewide victory against Sen. Mark Kirk (R). She performed much better than Clinton and Baricevic, winning almost all of the suburban precincts north of East St. Louis, and losing the rural heart of the district by a much smaller margin. Duckworth took a number of heterodox positions –like her forthright opposition to the TPP during Obama’s presidency – that made her more palatable among working-class voters.
A precinct loyalty map shows the willingness of voters here to split their tickets between Trump and Duckworth. While Clinton and Baricevic struggled to win voters outside of urban areas, Duckworth easily carried suburban precincts, and even came close in some rural areas.
Mike Bost is often seen as one of the most endangered House Republicans, and forecasters usually rate the contest as a tossup. He faces Brendan Kelly (D), state’s attorney for St. Clair county. Kelly has thus far proven to be a formidable opponent – he and Bost have raised almost the same amount of money. What little public polling exists has also indicated a close race. The Øptimus legislative model is similarly cautious, giving Bost a 65% chance of survival.