Republican Troy Balderson is claiming victory in an Ohio special election that remains too close to call the morning after Election Day. In Ohio’s 12th congressional district, Balderson holds a slim lead over Democrat Danny O’Connor. O’Connor, who trails by less than one percent and has not conceded, appears to be gearing up for a recount.
At press time, Balderson was credited with 101,574 votes to O’Connor’s 99,820. Balderson’s share of the vote was 50.2 percent while O’Connor received 49.3 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting. More than 3,000 provisional and 5,000 absentee ballots are awaiting review.
Balderson’s lead was very slim despite a last-minute trip to the district by President Trump. The president’s endorsement over the weekend had no discernible effect on the polling in the race, which had been a statistical tie since July.
Balderson took advantage of his lead at the end of the night to claim victory, saying, “I’m going to promise to you that I’m going to work relentlessly for this 12th Congressional District. America is on the right path and we are going to keep it going that way.”
O’Connor said in a statement, “We always knew this was going to be a close race, and while we don’t know the results quite yet, I know that this campaign left it all on the field.” On Twitter, O’Connor asked supporters to chip in for what “could be a long and expensive recount.”
Under Ohio law, if the vote totals are within half a percent there will be an automatic recount. A candidate can request a recount if there less than a one percent margin.
Even though Republicans may hold on to the traditionally Republican seat, there are warning signs for the GOP. As a popularity contest, the election was essentially a tie between Republicans and Democrats in a district that FiveThirtyEight rated as favoring Republicans by 14 points.
Both sides spent heavily to reach the near stalemate. A total of $8 million was spent on the race per Washington Post figures. O’Connor had an advantage in local fundraising and spent $2.4 million on media ads compared to Balderson’s $600,000. O’Connor’s spending advantage was offset by Republican PACs, which spent $4.1 million on Balderson’s behalf. The DCCC and DNC spent about $1.1 million for O’Connor.
Like O’Connor, many Democrats have a fundraising advantage over their Republican opponents this year. The Republican Super PAC advantage can help some Republicans, but the PACs may be spread too thin to help every endangered Republican seat.
Although Republicans have not lost every special election of the Trump era, they have lost many voters. FiveThirtyEight’s analysis shows that recent special elections have swung toward the Democrats by an average of 16 points. The Ohio results confirm that the many Republican seats held by less than the Ohio-12’s 14-point margin are danger this November.
The final lesson for Republicans is that President Trump has no coattails and that his endorsement will not guarantee victory in the general election. President Trump often played the kingmaker in the Republican primaries, but his endorsement does not help and may even hurt general election candidates.
If current trends continue, Republicans will preserve the Ohio 12-district seat, at least until the next election in November, but the victory should make the GOP nervous. The election continued the trend of Democratic gains since President Trump was elected. The Democratic fundraising advantage and an unpopular Republican president will make it difficult for Republicans to break the pattern.
Originally published on The Resurgent