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 4:37 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 4:53 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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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