Close Ohio special election strikes fear in GOP for midterms

It's the final test for the Trump administration before the all-important midterms determine which party will control Congress and it should be an easy win for conservatives. So why are Republicans scrambling to keep a Trump stronghold in Ohio? CNN's Ryan Nobles explains.

Posted: Aug 8, 2018 5:49 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 5:53 PM

Tuesday night's apparent narrow Republican victory in Ohio keeps a seat red but offers warning signs for the party in power. The Republican National Committee showed real ground game competence even as it looks at a landscape that favors Democratic control of the US House. Moral victories for Democrats don't make majorities, but there are enough seats in play for them to win control if House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn't drag her candidates down.

My takeaways from Tuesday night:

A win is a win. Holding the 12th Congressional District in Ohio offers temporary relief for Republicans against a deluge of gloom-and-doom stories about their prospects in the midterms. (Losing would have severely dried up fundraising and caused mass panic.) As they did in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election last year, Democratic donors poured money into Danny O'Connor's campaign, only to be disappointed on election night. Democrats did better here than they usually do, but suburban Delaware County, which delivered 54% of the vote to Republican Troy Balderson after giving Trump 54.5% in 2016, showed there are limits to how far to the left middle-class voters are willing to swing. Why?

Pelosi is a real problem for Democrats. During the campaign, O'Connor, in a torturous interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, admitted he would vote for whomever the Democratic nominee for House speaker is come January. Trouble is, as Matthews made clear, that person is going to be Pelosi. O'Connor's admission was weaponized by Republicans, who know Pelosi is toxic among right-of-center voters and highly motivating for lazy Republicans who sometimes miss off-year elections. Pelosi will continue to hurt Democratic candidates who are trying to convince moderate suburban voters to come their way. Pelosi ought to appear in more Republican ads than any other human this fall.

President Donald Trump can fairly take credit for helping Balderson win. During his victory speech, Balderson thanked Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their support. Not mentioned: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who also endorsed Balderson but caused him late trouble by claiming on television that the candidate didn't really want Trump to campaign for him. Both Trump and Pence held rallies and, according to Republicans strategists involved in the campaign, "absolutely juiced" GOP turnout.

According to people familiar with the campaign's internal polling, Balderson, partly because of a statement he made regarding Social Security and Medicare, was in a "free-fall" with two weeks to go. Then Pence and Trump showed up to stabilize the race as the RNC, raising record sums because of the President's engagement, provided ground game resources that delivered more than 1 million volunteer voter contacts.

Democrats remain favorites to win the House in November. Democrats were much closer than the numbers and history indicate they should have been in Ohio. According to expert forecaster Dave Wasserman, there are 68 Republican-held seats that, on paper, are less Republican than Ohio's 12th District. Democrats need to flip just 23 seats to take over; there are 25 Republican-held districts in which Hillary Clinton bested Trump in 2016. Balderson was badly outspent candidate-to-candidate by O'Connor, requiring a massive intervention from outside Republican groups. There isn't enough outside money to protect all 56 Republican incumbents who have been outraised by Democratic challengers; some Republican lawmakers who fail to put up their umbrella will get washed away in the storm.

The Senate map still favors Republicans. Results from suburban Delaware County show Republican Balderson winning roughly the same percentage of the vote that Trump won in 2016, even as O'Connor did better than Clinton (45.8% to Clinton's 38.7%). Republican strategist Brad Todd interprets this result as a sign Republicans remain strong favorites to hold their slim Senate majority, tweeting, "... (I)f Senate R challengers run as well as Balderson did in suburban places like Delaware County...they'll be just fine." Holding the Senate is crucial for Trump, as he can spend two years confirming judges even as a House Democratic majority tortures him with investigations and grinds his legislative agenda to a halt.

Social Security and Medicare still matter. The American economy is booming, but voters are still worried about retirement. Supporting an increase in the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare nearly sank Balderson, and some congressional race polling indicates that preserving the safety net programs remains important to older Trump supporters. Trump, time and again as a candidate, promised he would save Social Security and Medicare and even attacked Republicans who had proposed adjustments to the programs. Republican candidates should learn a lesson here and make clear they will do everything they can to ensure the safety net remains solvent and that benefits will not be cut for voters over 50.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 114236

Reported Deaths: 3548
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21067764
Lake10397321
Elkhart6477109
St. Joseph6312105
Allen6113201
Hamilton4803109
Vanderburgh353630
Hendricks2694123
Monroe253136
Tippecanoe234713
Johnson2291123
Clark218756
Porter210546
Cass19399
Delaware191861
Vigo180324
Madison161975
LaPorte140540
Floyd135161
Howard129263
Warrick123436
Kosciusko121117
Bartholomew115557
Marshall99724
Dubois96418
Boone96046
Hancock91743
Grant90334
Noble90032
Henry79326
Wayne75114
Jackson7469
Morgan70938
Shelby66829
Daviess65828
Dearborn64728
LaGrange63411
Clinton59514
Harrison56624
Putnam54211
Knox5139
Lawrence51028
Montgomery50721
Gibson4964
White48314
DeKalb46811
Decatur45839
Miami4313
Greene42235
Fayette41913
Jasper3902
Steuben3787
Scott36711
Sullivan33312
Posey3160
Jennings31212
Franklin30325
Clay2995
Orange28824
Ripley2878
Carroll27313
Wabash2638
Washington2631
Whitley2617
Starke2597
Adams2553
Wells2513
Jefferson2473
Fulton2352
Spencer2283
Huntington2253
Tipton22122
Perry21613
Randolph2117
Jay1760
Newton17211
Owen1681
Martin1640
Rush1544
Pike1431
Vermillion1270
Fountain1202
Pulaski1161
Blackford1143
Brown1043
Crawford1040
Parke972
Benton880
Ohio787
Union780
Switzerland690
Warren391
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 147744

Reported Deaths: 4715
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26545606
Cuyahoga17327656
Hamilton12953315
Montgomery7667157
Lucas7230364
Butler5838110
Summit5237252
Marion308347
Mahoning3030281
Warren300249
Stark2817170
Pickaway264444
Lorain229586
Delaware221620
Fairfield206752
Columbiana192480
Licking189863
Trumbull1876132
Wood180472
Clark177740
Clermont167923
Lake160850
Medina145139
Greene142032
Allen140869
Miami140751
Portage111666
Mercer110118
Erie93246
Tuscarawas92820
Wayne91967
Ross86823
Richland83919
Madison80212
Darke78442
Belmont71827
Geauga71348
Hancock68610
Ashtabula65548
Athens6532
Lawrence64122
Shelby61010
Auglaize5859
Putnam57923
Sandusky55820
Huron5427
Union5152
Scioto4896
Ottawa46930
Seneca46414
Preble43015
Muskingum3922
Holmes3857
Jefferson3354
Logan3083
Henry30613
Champaign3023
Perry2939
Defiance28811
Clinton28613
Brown2842
Knox28215
Washington25823
Morrow2572
Hardin25213
Jackson2466
Fulton2411
Ashland2364
Coshocton23311
Crawford2316
Fayette2286
Highland2223
Wyandot20812
Williams2063
Gallia18913
Pike1790
Meigs17410
Guernsey1678
Hocking1619
Carroll1527
Adams1264
Van Wert1163
Monroe11018
Paulding1070
Harrison632
Morgan470
Vinton473
Noble280
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