Democrats are hoping they can pull off one more big special election upset on Tuesday night, shaving their magic number of seats needed to retake the House down to 22 and further panicking congressional Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.
Democrat Danny O’Connor and Republican Troy Balderson are in a neck-and-neck race to replace former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) in a suburban and exurban district centered in Columbus, Ohio’s suburbs that no Democrat has held in nearly four decades and Trump carried by 11 percentage points in 2016.
Republicans remain a bit more confident they’ll pull this race off than Democrats, but the mere fact that this race is this competitive isn’t a good sign for the GOP’s chances come the fall. Republican outside groups have had to dump millions of dollars into the race to shore up Balderson, who O’Connor has crushed in the fundraising game. President Trump himself showed up on Saturday to help Balderson gin up GOP base enthusiasm (though it’s unclear whether Balderson actually wanted him there), and gave him one more boost Tuesday morning:
Ohio, vote today for Troy Balderson for Congress. His opponent, controlled by Nancy Pelosi, is weak on Crime, the Border, Military, Vets, your 2nd Amendment – and will end your Tax Cuts. Troy will be a great Congressman. #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2018
As I wrote last week, neither candidate is exactly an all-star — both have proven to be fine, if imperfect, candidates. Balderson struggled with fundraising and further proved this point by telling voters on election eve that “We don’t want someone from Franklin County representing us,” dissing approximately one-third of his district’s voters.
After saying all campaign that he wouldn’t back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as speaker, O’Connor fumbled a question on MSNBC by admitting he’d support her on the House floor as speaker if she won the Democratic caucus nomination — and he took two weeks off the campaign trail for a trip to Greece right after winning his primary.
That makes this race essentially a generic Democrat-versus-Republican campaign that makes it a better test of where the electorate is in this more upscale, highly educated district. If Democrats are winning here, it’s the latest sign a blue wave might wash across the House map in November. If they just come close, that’s still an ominous result for the GOP, albeit one that gives Republicans hope they can grind out enough close wins in the fall to hang onto House control.
The race isn’t the only interesting one on Tuesday: Kansas will also pick its nominees for governor, an election that could be close this fall if the GOP nominates controversial former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R). Trump endorsed Kobach on Monday, boosting a voting rights opponent and immigration hardliner who has long embraced the president and possibly giving him enough lift to win his hard-fought primary against appointed Gov. Jeff Colyer (R). If that holds, Democrats are hopeful they can seriously compete in the fall election in a state where hardline conservatives’ dominance has turned off a number of suburban Republican voters.
Voters will also pick nominees for Michigan’s gubernatorial election, the GOP opponent for heavily favored Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), nominate candidates in a handful of key House races in Kansas and Michigan, as well as hold elections in Missouri and Washington.
Polls close at 7:30 p.m. EST in Ohio, and 9 p.m. in all of Michigan and Kansas. Washington is vote-by-mail.