Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor are in a dead heat with less than a week left before Ohio’s special election, according to a new poll.
A new Monmouth University poll found that Balderson, a state senator, leads O’Connor, a Franklin County recorder, by only one point — 44 percent to 43 percent, within the survey’s margin of error. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided going into Tuesday’s race.
The gap among all potential voters — those who are newly registered or have voted in an election since 2010 — has significantly closed: a Monmouth poll in June showed Balderson holding a 10-point lead over O’Connor.
The poll comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE is coming to visit on Saturday in a bid to boost Balderson in a district that has been represented by a Republican since 1980. The seat remains vacant after the retirement of Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE (R).
Other turnout models used by Monmouth also suggest a close race. When using a typical midterm model, the race is again essentially tied, with Balderson at 46 percent and O’Connor at 45 percent. And when using a model with surging Democratic turnout, O’Connor garners 46 percent while Balderson takes 45 percent.
But Balderson extends his lead in a low-turnout model, leading O’Connor 49 percent to 44 percent.
“This race has definitely tightened in the past month. This is similar to the trend we saw in our polling of the Pennsylvania special election earlier this year. That race ended up with an electorate that looked more like a standard midterm turnout,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
“This is still a Republican-leaning district with many metrics that continue to favor Balderson, but growing Democratic enthusiasm has made this race surprisingly competitive. O’Connor’s chances hinge on generating a larger than usual share of the vote from the suburbs north of Columbus.”
Monmouth attributes the tightening race to independent voters who were once undecided but are now supporting O’Connor. The Ohio Democrat leads those voters by 16 points, 48 percent to 32 percent, with 17 percent of independent voters still undecided.
O’Connor also leads in his home county of Franklin, where voters make up a third of the district’s electorate. But Balderson is ahead in every other part of the 12th District. And the Ohio Republican benefits from voters still preferring Republicans to control Congress over Democrats, 41 percent to 36 percent.
Ohio’s special election is viewed in part as a referendum on President Trump, who carried the 12th District by 11 points in the 2016 election. The poll found that 46 percent approve of Trump’s job performance, compared to 49 percent who disapprove. That approval rating is slightly higher than his national approval rating, which sits in the low to mid 40s.
Trump’s campaign announced that he’ll hold a rally Saturday night in Delaware, Ohio. Murray said that could be a “game changer” for Balderson in terms of winning more voters and energizing the base.
“Trump maintains a significant amount of backing in Ohio 12. His just announced plan to hold a rally there this weekend could light a fire under some supporters who were planning to sit this one out,” said Murray.
The poll was conducted from July 26-31 and surveyed 512 voters. The margin of error was 4.3 percentage points for the full sample, 4.8 percent points for standard and surge models, and 5.3 percentage points for low-turnout model.
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