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We’re coming up on a special election in Ohio for a congressional seat abandoned by Republican Pat Tiberi after he retired in January. The 12th Congressional District, which sits in the outskirts of Columbus, has been considered a “safe” Republican district, but Democrats are hoping to make a stand by unleashing the “blue wave” heading toward November. As a result, Republicans are also digging in making it a point to dispatch big names and big money to hold a red seat.

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In fact, the OH-12 election has become so big that President Trump will appear at a rally there on Saturday, as Politico reports:

President Donald Trump will travel to Ohio on Saturday to campaign for Republican special election candidate Troy Balderson, according to a senior party official — a move that comes amid rising GOP fears about the race.

A Republican loss, coming after special election defeats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, would be deeply deflating for the conservative base and party donors, and provide more evidence that a wave is building against them heading into the midterms.

National Republicans have bombarded the suburban Columbus district with more than $3.3 million in TV ads in an effort to boost Balderson, a state legislator, and attack his Democratic opponent, Danny O’Connor, ahead of the Aug. 7 special election. They are battling to replace longtime GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned last fall.

Many Democratic groups have been working for weeks on the ground, spending big money on advertising hoping to turn the seat blue and gain some momentum toward an attempt to take the House in November, as CNN reports:

A trio of Democratic groups are wading into the upcoming Ohio 12th Congressional District special election with a joint advertising and field campaign, part of a rush of Democratic engagement in the last two weeks of a contest that will serve as a key test ahead of the 2018 midterms.

The three groups — House Majority PAC, Priorities USA Action and For Our Future — announced Wednesday the launch of a “joint $140,000 investment in a digital and field campaign” aimed at bolstering Democrat Danny O’Connor against Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson in the race for former Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi’s seat.

The organizations say the initiative will run through Election Day on August 7, with Priorities USA helming the digital ad campaign and For Our Future leading canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Vice President Mike Pence has already visited the district and claims that the Aug. 7 election will be the start of a “red wave,” not a blue wave. USNews reports on the Pence visit:

Vice President Mike Pence says a red wave in the midterm elections will start in Ohio where there’s a special congressional race in August to fill an open U.S. House seat.

Pence campaigned in Newark on Monday for Republican state senator Troy Balderson. He’s trying to retain GOP control of the 12th District that Republicans have held for nearly 35 years.

Pence told supporters he knows conventional wisdom says the first mid-term election for the party in the White House is usually tough.

But Pence says “we all know what President Donald Trump thinks of conventional wisdom.”

On Monday, the President joined Pence’s support and tweeted about the race:

On the ground, the Columbus Dispatch reports that Democratic voter enthusiasm seems to be outpacing Republicans, at least when it comes to absentee ballots:

As next week’s 12th Congressional District special election draws near, Democrats continue to outperform Republicans in early voting — one indication that the “enthusiasm gap” between the parties is alive and well in central Ohio.

The party of Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor continues to lap the field in his home county. But perhaps more important, Democrats are holding their own in Delaware and Licking counties, areas where Republicans have dominated early voting in recent years. Supporters of GOP state Sen. Troy Balderson of Zanesville had predicted that Republicans would close an early lead by Democrats because the GOP’s mass mailings of absentee ballot applications came after the Democrats’.

With a week of early voting left, Democrats in the Franklin County portion of the 12th district have asked for almost three times as many mail-in absentee ballots as Republicans, 4,232 to 1,508. The Democrats’ advantage is even greater among those who already have cast an early in-person vote: 87 percent of the major-party tallies, or 2,443 to 362.

In the 2016 general election, when Donald Trump and then-Rep. Pat Tiberi were on the ballot, Franklin County Republicans cast 52 person of early votes among the two major parties. Tiberi, a Genoa Township Republican, quit in January, leading to a special election to fill his seat.

The polls still show Republican candidate, Troy Balderson, in the lead, but the margin of the latest poll is razor thin. Here is the latest from RealClearPolitics:

OH-12 Polls

In the end, Republicans have the most to lose from this seat since they’re expected to win it. A thin GOP victory could give Democrats hope for November in other swing seats. An outright loss by Republicans could signal a “code red” in the halls of the GOP and give Democrats a blueprint for competing in other competitive Midwestern districts by pushing a more centrist, anti-Washington message, as O’Connor has tried to do.

The special election voting takes place on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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