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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.

Cases: 578494

Reported Deaths: 9202
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion798821282
Lake43601664
Allen31380537
Hamilton27675303
St. Joseph26409369
Elkhart23873336
Vanderburgh18192211
Tippecanoe16999116
Porter14183158
Johnson14120277
Hendricks13560236
Madison10312209
Vigo10297171
Clark9952128
Monroe8933105
Delaware8638129
LaPorte8589153
Kosciusko777375
Howard7712136
Warrick624990
Hancock621995
Bartholomew616094
Floyd5971105
Wayne5811155
Grant5716108
Dubois533570
Boone523167
Morgan501485
Marshall487084
Henry483262
Cass464959
Noble453956
Dearborn443343
Jackson410145
Shelby394376
Lawrence374172
Clinton359838
Gibson348556
DeKalb333063
Montgomery329150
Knox323339
Harrison317242
Miami305043
Steuben300740
Adams291635
Ripley287145
Wabash286345
Whitley286324
Huntington278757
Putnam278046
Jasper274933
White262038
Daviess255671
Jefferson242738
Fayette239248
Decatur237382
Greene229259
Posey225626
Wells225146
LaGrange222061
Scott212837
Clay212432
Randolph204940
Jennings188635
Sullivan185831
Spencer176917
Fountain175125
Washington170216
Starke169241
Jay160521
Fulton156829
Owen155536
Carroll150115
Orange146333
Rush145618
Vermillion141633
Perry141327
Franklin139333
Parke12718
Tipton126232
Pike111325
Blackford105122
Pulaski93636
Newton87820
Brown84428
Benton83010
Crawford7229
Martin68013
Warren6427
Switzerland6035
Union6033
Ohio4547
Unassigned0372

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 807293

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin95508704
Cuyahoga80262964
Hamilton59783436
Montgomery40858396
Summit32488697
Lucas29495575
Butler29100225
Stark24048388
Warren18471135
Lorain17563207
Mahoning16430334
Lake14941134
Clermont14703103
Delaware1349574
Licking12353132
Trumbull12096297
Fairfield1184280
Greene11338132
Medina10815164
Clark10334261
Wood9742153
Allen9355126
Miami867373
Portage8628104
Richland8604111
Marion7231112
Tuscarawas6987172
Columbiana6922124
Pickaway689050
Wayne6599162
Muskingum648939
Erie5729117
Hancock529088
Ross518287
Scioto508753
Geauga469955
Darke450589
Ashtabula431467
Union422327
Mercer419485
Lawrence417051
Sandusky413262
Auglaize407059
Shelby404621
Seneca404354
Huron399738
Jefferson391565
Belmont378140
Putnam359370
Washington357039
Athens35469
Madison331128
Knox329022
Ashland322538
Fulton319043
Defiance311476
Crawford306769
Preble306434
Brown289617
Logan284828
Ottawa275534
Clinton272741
Williams265757
Highland255618
Jackson250743
Guernsey234625
Champaign233727
Fayette218929
Morrow21754
Holmes215562
Perry215317
Henry206147
Hardin200932
Coshocton194517
Van Wert193744
Wyandot186948
Gallia186226
Adams160815
Pike160116
Hocking157423
Carroll143216
Paulding137521
Noble116138
Meigs99021
Monroe93827
Harrison8428
Morgan75826
Vinton64013
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