Thu, Aug 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Close Ohio race ominous for the GOP

MOMENTUM:In a race that ‘should not have been a contest,’ Republican Balderson is leading by only 1,700 votes in a district that Trump won by 11 percentage points

AFP, WASHINGTON

A special congressional election in an Ohio district that solidly backed US President Donald Trump in 2016 remained too close to call early yesterday, an ominous sign for the president and Republicans ahead of November’s midterms.

Even as Republican Troy Balderson — who was leading by 0.9 percentage points, or about 1,700 votes — declared victory over Democrat Danny O’Connor, all signs point to the vulnerability for Republicans in the coming three months.

Tuesday’s political battleground, an affluent suburban district that is about 88 percent white, has been in Republican control for more than three decades. By all accounts, it should be reliable Trump country, and the president won it by 11 percentage points in 2016.

However, that margin collapsed in the race to replace former Republican representative Pat Tiberi, who resigned in January.

The race carries immense implications. It is the final direct face-off between Republicans and Democrats before the November midterms, and Trump’s party was holding its breath about a race that was turning out to be a referendum on the president.

Despite no projections of victory by US networks or Ohio’s secretary of state, who said that thousands of absentee and provisional ballots were outstanding, both Trump and Balderson took to Twitter to declare victory.

However, O’Connor, 31, did not directly concede when he addressed his supporters, saying the race was essentially a tie.

Both candidates are expected to face off again in three months for the right to represent the district for the next two years in Congress.

Democrats have been counting on a “blue wave” propelled by grassroots activism for the November elections, while Republicans are struggling to tread water.

“This race should not have even been a contest,” former Republican representative Charlie Dent told CNN about Ohio. “It’s clear the energy and intensity is on the Democratic side.”

Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives, but Trump is worried that any slippage could hurt his ability to push through his agenda — and expose him to Democratic efforts to oust him from power.

In recent weeks, he has made several campaign appearances ahead of state primaries, endorsing congressional and gubernatorial candidates while imploring his supporters to vote.

An O’Connor victory would have been a massive shot in the arm for Democrats seeking to take back the House.

“That Dems are even competitive in Ohio’s 12th district is an indication that the blue wave may in fact be coming,” University of Akron political science professor David Cohen said.

The Republicans’ challenge is to hold their House majority, but experts say that appears increasingly difficult. Democrats need to flip 23 seats to reclaim the 435-seat House.

RealClearPolitics on Friday last week put the generic ballot — a poll of whether Americans would vote for Democrats or Republicans for Congress — in favor of Democrats by 6.1 percentage points.

Trump also endorsed a more provocative Republican candidate on a primary ballot.

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach — known for his divisive positions on immigration and voting rights — was neck and neck in his primary race to unseat a Republican incumbent governor.

Republican and Democratic primary elections were also being held in Michigan, Missouri and Washington state.

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