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Outside money pours into Ohio special election

The race to represent suburban Columbus, Ohio, is heating up.A series of outside groups and committees, viewin...

Posted: Jul 24, 2018 12:46 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2018 12:46 PM

The race to represent suburban Columbus, Ohio, is heating up.

A series of outside groups and committees, viewing the race as one of the last referendums on President Donald Trump before November's midterms, have steadily poured money into the special election in Ohio's 12th Congressional District, ratcheting up the national implications in the race between Democrat Danny O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson.

The National Republican Congressional Committee increased its spending on television ads by $250,000 on Monday, according to committee sources, reserving ad space for the final two weeks of the campaign. The committee has thus far spent close to $600,000 on the race, according to FEC reports.

The NRCC move comes days after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dropped $238,000 for 10 days of ads through July 30. The expectation is that the DCCC will buy more airtime to run pro-O'Connor spots through the August 7 election.

The most constant spending in the race has come from the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, which has spent close to $2 million on ads slamming O'Connor.

And Trump even weighed into the race recently, tweeting his endorsement of Balderson.

"Troy Balderson of Ohio is running for Congress against a Nancy Pelosi Liberal who is WEAK on Crime & Borders," he wrote. "Troy is the total opposite, and loves our Military, Vets & 2nd Amendment. EARLY VOTING just started with Election Day on August 7th. Troy has my Full & Total Endorsement!"

More than $2 million worth of TV ads have been dumped on the district by campaigns and outside spending groups, according to data from the ad-tracking firm CMAG, and those outside groups have combined to spend more than $4 million in total on the special election, per FEC filings.

A test run for November

The uptick in money and attention is the latest sign that both Democrats and Republicans are closely watching the special election as a sign of how each party will fare in November. The congressional district, whose seat was opened when Rep. Pat Tiberi retired, has long been represented by Republicans and in another political environment would likely be out of reach for most Democrats.

What has surprised Democrats most in the race, however, is the fact that Republicans have largely abandoned the pro-tax reform messaging that national operatives called central to their 2018 strategy just months ago.

"There is no positive outcome in November if we do not show that we cut taxes for the middle class and are working to make their lives better. Period," Congressional Leadership Fund executive director Corry Bliss wrote in a memo earlier this year.

That strategy has not played out in the special election, however, where the Ryan-aligned outside group has spent much of its time on air linking O'Connor with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

CMAG has found that taxes are not the top issue on TV, either. According to the group, taxes have been the second most talked about issue on television in the race, behind immigration. But health care is a close third, followed by government spending and social issues.

"The liberal resistance ... want Danny O'Connor's help, bankrolling his campaign. Pelosi and Warren know O'Connor supports amnesty for illegals and O'Connor opposes the border wall," says a narrator in a recent CLF ad. "Danny O'Connor would join the resistance."

At no point does the ad mention the tax bill, a fact that surprised Democratic operatives working on the race.

"After selling their conference on the GOP tax plan, this race has once again shown it may in fact be more of a liability than an asset," said the strategist. "This district is also majority suburban and has the highest median income in the state, begging the question: If you can't sell the tax bill here, where can you?"

Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for CLF, argued that the group had made tax reform part of their messaging -- noting two ads earlier in the campaign that mentioned the issue.

"The Democratic Party has become the party of mocking middle-class families' tax cuts, calling for higher taxes, and now, abolishing ICE," she said. "That's a nice contrast with the Republican Party, who voted to cut middle-class taxes."

Litigating tax reform

At the same time, Democrats have increased their focus on the tax bill, which Republicans -- with Trump's backing -- passed earlier this year.

After showing people around Balderson smiling and laughing, a narrator in the latest DCCC asks why they all look so happy.

"It's because Balderson supports a massive corporate tax break that helps rack up $2 trillion in debt," the narrator says, going on to argue that the tax bill could mean cuts to Medicare and Social Security. "Troy Balderson, that's not funny at all," the add concludes, showing a laughing Balderson.

O'Connor has also looked to fight being linked to national Democrats, eschewing the fiery rhetoric and leftward swing dominating the Democratic Party to reach out to longtime Republican voters. O'Connor blunted Republican attacks against him when he pledged to vote against Pelosi and has run as a pragmatic leader willing to work with Republicans in Congress and Ohio.

In a recent ad, O'Connor's campaign touts his ties to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a controversial figure among Republicans in Ohio because of his opposition to Trump. Kasich has yet to endorse Balderson, even though the governor once represented the congressional district.

"I voted for John Kasich the last three times. I voted for Trump because I didn't like the way things were going in Washington, and now I'm supporting Danny O'Connor," Shannon Ward, a 40-year old mother of two from Delaware, Ohio, says in the ad.

Democrats in Washington and Ohio believe that if they are able to win the special election on August 7, their chances of taking back the House in November are high. Republicans, eager to defend Trump's presidency, want to put a stop to a string of strong performances by Democrats in special elections.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 486434

Reported Deaths: 6575
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1009131586
Ramsey43165803
Dakota36375392
Anoka33335388
Washington22121258
Stearns18752201
St. Louis14822263
Scott13308107
Wright12538116
Olmsted1181788
Sherburne874172
Carver775640
Clay692387
Rice670791
Blue Earth596635
Kandiyohi579674
Crow Wing521282
Chisago499545
Otter Tail483270
Benton447790
Winona418549
Mower405731
Douglas393368
Nobles387247
Goodhue386269
Polk343763
McLeod340049
Beltrami338651
Morrison324747
Itasca313646
Lyon313644
Becker312542
Isanti306756
Steele301511
Carlton300149
Freeborn282623
Pine282016
Nicollet259241
Todd248330
Brown245537
Le Sueur235720
Mille Lacs227947
Cass220424
Waseca209317
Meeker207434
Martin189928
Wabasha18673
Roseau180317
Hubbard160740
Houston157414
Dodge15294
Renville150340
Redwood147027
Fillmore13768
Chippewa136735
Pennington136316
Cottonwood135020
Wadena131020
Faribault123417
Aitkin119033
Watonwan11758
Sibley117310
Rock115914
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101624
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9488
Jackson93610
Swift87918
Pope8075
Marshall78015
Lake74218
Stevens7418
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68516
Wilkin67411
Koochiching61911
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5092
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned44568
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3075
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 335218

Reported Deaths: 5443
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk51785551
Linn19463313
Scott17080210
Black Hawk14924292
Woodbury13778212
Johnson1312174
Dubuque12416194
Dallas1019092
Pottawattamie9828143
Story959345
Warren511674
Clinton500784
Cerro Gordo498882
Webster494487
Sioux479169
Marshall463072
Des Moines427161
Muscatine424191
Buena Vista412237
Wapello4025108
Jasper386266
Plymouth367478
Lee354252
Marion339869
Jones284654
Henry279637
Bremer268754
Carroll266349
Crawford252235
Boone242830
Benton240354
Washington239047
Mahaska215246
Jackson209738
Dickinson202440
Tama202365
Kossuth198055
Delaware185540
Clay183825
Winneshiek182827
Fayette178635
Page177819
Buchanan176929
Wright173831
Hamilton173742
Cedar171523
Hardin169439
Harrison167169
Clayton159854
Butler158831
Mills147920
Floyd147741
Poweshiek147730
Lyon145541
Cherokee145336
Allamakee142347
Madison141918
Iowa139423
Hancock137630
Grundy132030
Winnebago130231
Calhoun129311
Cass128751
Jefferson128334
Appanoose123147
Louisa122341
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Chickasaw119615
Union118731
Sac118318
Shelby116433
Emmet115040
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Franklin109019
Guthrie108928
Palo Alto100921
Howard99021
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Clarke94720
Keokuk92029
Monroe89428
Adair81028
Ida81032
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Davis76323
Monona76327
Greene72910
Lucas71421
Osceola68215
Worth6667
Taylor64112
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