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Trump’s Ohio visit made a difference for Troy Balderson -- one way or another

August 9, 2018

Trump’s Ohio visit made a difference for Troy Balderson -- one way or another

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Love him or hate him, President Donald Trump motivates voters.

And whether they’re Trump fans or foes, Ohio political operatives say that Trump’s Saturday campaign visit to Delaware County motivated people to vote in Tuesday’s tight special election for an open congressional seat.

Unofficial election results showed GOP candidate Troy Balderson, a state senator from Zanesville, with a 1,754-vote lead over the Democratic candidate, Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor. Although Balderson claimed victory, O’Connor has not conceded because thousands more provisional and absentee ballots haven’t been counted.

.@realDonaldTrump’s support has been immeasurable in this #OH12 race. Nobody energizes our base like President Trump.— Bob Paduchik (@Paduch) August 8, 2018

Trump grabbed credit for Balderson’s showing on Twitter, saying “When I decided to go to Ohio for Troy Balderson, he was down in early voting 64 to 36. That was not good. After my speech on Saturday night, there was a big turn for the better. Now Troy wins a great victory during a very tough time of the year for voting. He will win BIG in Nov.”

There’s a kernel of truth to his bluster. While early votes were always expected to break O’Connor’s way, polling in the race indicated the candidates were deadlocked. Both sides focused on getting their backers to the polls at a time when most Ohioans aren’t focused on voting. Having Trump in Ohio the weekend before the election helped publicize the race.

In a victory speech to supporters, Balderson thanked his family, his volunteers, as well as Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who headlined a July 30 rally for Balderson in Licking County.

“Over the next three months, I’m going to do everything I can to keep America great again,” Balderson said in a riff on Trump’s presidential campaign slogan. Balderson and O’Connor will face off again in November for the seat vacated by Patrick Tiberi’s departure to head the Ohio Business Roundtable.

When I decided to go to Ohio for Troy Balderson, he was down in early voting 64 to 36. That was not good. After my speech on Saturday night, there was a big turn for the better. Now Troy wins a great victory during a very tough time of the year for voting. He will win BIG in Nov.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 8, 2018

Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken said Trump’s visit played a “very big role” in energizing the Republican base, along with GOP voter mobilization efforts that made nearly one million voter contacts.

“President Trump brings Republicans home, which translated into Troy Balderson’s win,” said Timken. “People in Ohio vote their wallets. Because of President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress they are better off than they were 18 months ago and that will help Republicans win in November.”

But Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper ridiculed Trump for maintaining Balderson’s finish was “a good result” in a district “with Republican DNA” that Trump carried by 11 percentage points in 2016 and that Tiberi never won by less than 28 percent. He said that the “chaos” that Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress created in Washington made voters in that district more willing to back “a good Democratic candidate.”

Pepper said Trump’s visit motivated some voters for to cast ballots for Balderson, and others to back O’Connor because he’d act as a check on the Trump agenda.

“His inability to show any difference from Trump, even on things that most Americans disagree with Trump on, will hurt him,”  Pepper said of Balderson.

There will probably be a GOP effort to explain away a Balderson loss or narrow victory w/ a local excuse. But what could the common denominator in closer-than-usual races in #OH12, #MT-AL, #KS04, #SC05, #AZ08, #PA18, #ALSen? Answer: @realDonaldTrump— Nathan Gonzales (@nathanlgonzales) August 8, 2018

O’Connor disputed Trump’s influence in a CNN interview, saying that Balderson could “have all of the people he wants fly in from D.C.,” but “I don’t think it makes too much of a difference. I think the reason we’re having so much success and that this race is a tied ball game is because we’ve been crisscrossing this district talking to voters about important issues, about stuff that matters to them when they sit around the kitchen table.”

Retired Ohio State University political science professor Herb Asher called Trump’s tweet claiming credit for Balderson’s narrow edge “wonderfully self-serving,” saying it’s possible Trump energized both Republicans and Democrats. Even if Balderson lost, Trump would have claimed that his visit made a big difference, says Asher.

“The Republicans threw everything into this election,” said Asher, citing the White House visits millions of dollars spent by outside groups to help Balderson. “To win it so narrowly should be a warning sign to every Republican operative and GOP incumbent.”

Baldwin Wallace University political scientist Tom Sutton believes that the visits from Trump and Pence reminded voters in the district’s rural areas not to forget to vote in the unusual August special election, and prompted their fans to cast ballots for Balderson.

“To put Trump’s visit in the context of any president supporting a candidate, it mobilizes those who already identify themselves as supporters of the president and his party,” said Sutton, who predicts that Trump will visit Ohio many more times between now and November to plug candidates in other tight races.

“What I hope is a major takeaway from yesterday is that literally, every vote counts,” said Sutton. “This is an extremely tight election and it is officially not over yet. We may see similar results in November with Democratic challengers in seats that might traditionally be safe for Republicans.”

It clearly takes more than money to win elections, though also very helpful. Thanks to @Jim_Jordan and @realDonaldTrump for bringing the ENERGY to close the gap and help put @Troy_Balderson over the top in #OH12! #Teamwork https://t.co/8RULKRtA4x— Warren Davidson (@WarrenDavidson) August 8, 2018

 

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