Republican Troy Balderson apparently squeaked out a narrow victory over Democrat Danny O’Connor Tuesday night in a special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, although O’Connor has not conceded and the Associated Press has not yet called the race.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Decision Desk tweeted at 10:40 p.m. eastern that Balderson had a 1,766 vote lead.
Without provisional ballots, Balderson (R) finishes ahead of O’Connor (D) 101,566 to 99,800 in #OH12 All precincts reported.
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) August 8, 2018
Balderson’s lead over O’Connor was just 0.9 percent, 50.2 percent to 49.3 percent.
With the possibility that an estimated 8,400 absentee provisional ballots could change the outcome, the Associated Press held back from calling the race, but the consensus among political analysts Tuesday night was that it was unlikely that provisional ballots would be sufficient to change the outcome from a GOP victory.
“O’Connor did not concede the race, and over 8,400 absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted, according to the Ohio secretary of state’s office,” Politico reported late Saturday night.
In order to pull out a victory, O’Connor would need to win more than 60 percent of those absentee and provisional ballots, or receive at least 5,083 of those 8,400 ballots.
It may take several days to count all the absentee and provisional ballots.
It was dramatic evening of back and forth lead changes between Balderson and O’Connor as the results came in throughout the evening. After the polls closed at 7:30 p.m central (8:30 p.m. eastern) the early voting results gave O’Connor more than a 2 to 1 lead, but that differential was anticipated by both sides.
By 8:55 p.m. eastern, with 30 percent of precincts reporting, O’ Connor’s lead over Balderson had slipped to 53.6 percent to 45.8 percent.
By 9:20 p.m. eastern, with 66 percent of precincts reporting, Balderson took a slight lead over O’Connor, 50.3 percent to 49.0 percent.
But 21 minutes later, at 9:41 p.m. eastern, with 81 percent of precincts reporting, O’ Connor was back up, 50.1 percent to 49.3 percent.
Just 20 minutes later, at 10:01 p.m. eastern, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, Balderson was back up for good by 741 votes.
The National Republican Congressional Committee declared victory at 10:57 p.m. eastern.
Four minutes later, at 11:01 pm eastern, President Trump declared victory.
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
Democrats had hoped a victory by O’Connor in the district that has been represented by a Republican for more than three decades would signal a coming Blue Wave in November.
While Republicans were glad to have the apparent victory, the narrowness and lack of finality of the apparent victory in a district President Trump won by 11 points in 2016 is cause for concern.
Both national parties poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the last special Congressional election before the November midterms.
President Trump flew in to the district on Saturday and held a raucous rally in Lewis Center that may have been the final push that put Balderson over the top.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, President Trump’s vanquished rival in the 2016 Republican presidential primary race and a prominent Never Trumper, did little to help Balderson’s cause when he appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday and declared that Balderson had not invited Trump into the district to hold last week’s rally.
The most recent poll, released by Emerson College on Monday, called the race a dead heat.
The big take away from the GOP’s apparent narrow victory in the Ohio-12 special election on Tuesday night is this: Buckle up, because both parties are going to go all out over the next three months to maintain control of the House of Representatives.
If Balderson’s 1,766 vote margin holds up, Democrats still need a net gain of 23 seats to take back the majority, and Republicans still need to hold on to 61 seats to maintain the majority.