The special election race in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor appears to be going right down to the wire.
A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday shows Balderson receiving 44% support and O’Connor pulling 43% with 11% of respondents saying they are undecided. That’s a shift from a little over a month ago, when Monmouth found Balderson leading O’Connor by 10 points.
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Tuesday’s election in central Ohio is the final test for the parties to gauge where they are in advance of the November midterm elections.
The poll comes just days before President Donald Trump heads to central Ohio on Saturday to stump for Balderson. The trip appears to be an attempt to fire up the Republican base, but Democrats close to O’Connor’s campaign hope it will also spur Democratic excitement and turn off Republicans wary of Trump. The President’s approval in the district stands at 46% with 49% saying they disapprove of his job performance.
Independent voters look to be boosting O’Connor’s prospects, backing the Democrat over Balderson by a 48% to 32% margin – with 17% undecided. That’s a swing from the 33% to 30% split in favor of Balderson in June, when 33% were undecided.
Democrats also appear to hold an enthusiasm edge in the district, with 66% saying they have a high level of interest, up 22 points since June. That compares with 55% of Republicans who express a lot of interest, a 15-point gain.
Overperformance by Democrats has been a key trend in special election contests since Trump’s 2016 win. But the party has only scored one House special election victory in that time – Conor Lamb’s March win in western Pennsylvania.
Democrats have compared the O’Connor race to Lamb and the Democratic candidate has told CNN that he sees similarities between what Lamb did and what he is trying to accomplish.
For Republicans, it is all hands on deck, with the party sending in Trump to campaign for Balderson following a recent visit to the Buckeye State by Vice President Mike Pence.
The suburban Columbus district has been held by Republicans, including current Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for more than three decades. In 2016, President Trump carried the district by 11 points.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted July 26 to July 31 among 512 voters in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District for the August 7 special election. The results have a margin of error of +/- 4.3% points for the full sample.