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

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49575

Reported Deaths: 2739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11812690
Lake5337247
Elkhart343257
Allen2867133
St. Joseph202569
Cass16439
Hamilton1629101
Hendricks1439100
Johnson1306118
Porter78038
Tippecanoe7439
Clark67144
Madison66864
Vanderburgh6296
LaPorte59727
Bartholomew59245
Howard58258
Kosciusko5654
Marshall5217
Noble49128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4773
Delaware46052
Boone45944
Hancock45736
Shelby43425
Floyd39144
Morgan32831
Monroe31528
Grant30226
Montgomery29720
Henry29316
Dubois2906
Clinton2882
White26810
Decatur25532
Lawrence25125
Dearborn24723
Vigo2408
Warrick23229
Harrison21722
Greene19132
Miami1892
Jennings17912
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess15017
Wayne1496
Perry1409
Orange13623
Steuben1332
Franklin1278
Jasper1252
Ripley1247
Wabash1152
Carroll1122
Fayette1037
Gibson1032
Newton9910
Whitley995
Starke963
Huntington822
Randolph804
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox650
Clay644
Rush603
Owen511
Adams491
Posey490
Benton480
Spencer461
Sullivan451
Brown421
Blackford392
Fountain332
Crawford320
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio210
Vermillion170
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61331

Reported Deaths: 3006
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11122439
Cuyahoga8518383
Hamilton6396206
Lucas2859304
Marion273739
Montgomery228335
Summit2269209
Pickaway220641
Mahoning1885239
Butler172147
Columbiana132460
Stark1171114
Lorain107368
Trumbull101474
Warren91825
Clark78410
Delaware64515
Fairfield61417
Tuscarawas59010
Belmont55822
Lake55122
Medina54832
Licking53612
Miami48631
Portage47759
Wood46151
Ashtabula43844
Clermont4367
Geauga41543
Wayne36752
Richland3595
Allen33841
Greene3009
Mercer29410
Erie26022
Darke25326
Holmes2524
Huron2342
Madison2069
Ottawa16124
Sandusky14215
Washington14220
Crawford1375
Ross1363
Putnam13315
Coshocton1323
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson952
Muskingum921
Union921
Athens911
Monroe8917
Hancock841
Preble811
Hocking798
Lawrence790
Guernsey763
Shelby724
Williams722
Clinton700
Logan661
Fulton650
Ashland621
Wyandot615
Carroll603
Brown591
Scioto560
Defiance543
Knox531
Fayette510
Highland471
Champaign461
Van Wert430
Perry401
Seneca362
Henry320
Jackson270
Paulding270
Pike270
Adams241
Vinton222
Gallia201
Noble130
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 79°
Angola
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Huntington
Overcast
77° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Breezy, Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events