Is President Trump in trouble in Ohio? Tight outcome in Balderson-O’Connor race suggests he may be: Thomas Suddes

To the extent that Troy Balderson was a proxy for President Trump in the heavily Republican 12th Congressional District – and in this race Balderson was a proxy for Trump – the president may be facing problems in Ohio, writes Thomas Suddes.

Although it’s not official (it almost certainly will be), Zanesville Republican Troy Balderson has won a seat in the U.S. House for the next four-plus months in the Columbus region’s 12th Congressional District . And Columbus Democrat Danny O’Connor, Franklin County’s recorder, lost to Balderson.

Balderson, a state senator, drew about 50.15 percent of the 12th District vote. But in 2016, Balderson’s self-appointed cheerleader, Donald Trump, drew 53.2 percent of the district’s vote; Trump led Hillary Clinton by 11.3 percentage points. On Tuesday, though, the GOP’s Balderson led Democrat O’Connor by 0.9 percent (nine-tenths of 1 percent).

Troy Balderson is unofficial winner in 12th Congressional District special election in a nailbiter

To the extent that Balderson was a proxy for Trump in the heavily Republican district – and that’s what Balderson was, a proxy, given issues cited in the campaign – the president may be in trouble in Ohio. 

If everything in America is as fabulous as the president’s fans claim, Balderson should have done at least as well Tuesday, districtwide, as Trump did in there in 2016. But Balderson didn’t.

Aug. 7 special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District could be seen as a referendum on Trump: Thomas Suddes

No, that doesn’t mean Trump can’t win a second term. In the last 100 years, voters have denied only Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush second terms. So there’s that. (Gerald Ford was never elected vice president or president, so he’s hard to classify; but when Carter unseated Ford in 1976, the GOP’s Ford carried every county now in Balderson’s 12th District.)

There’ll be a Balderson-O’Connor rematch in November for a full, two-year U.S. House term. Tuesday’s election was for the unexpired remainder of ex-Rep. Pat Tiberi’s U.S. House term.

This fall’s Balderson-O’Connor rematch should be every bit as robust as the summer campaign. Tiberi, a Delaware County Republican, resigned from Congress on Jan. 15 to become president of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

The 12th Congressional District is composed of Delaware, Licking and Morrow counties, and parts of the counties of Franklin, Marion, Muskingum and Richland.

Historically, Delaware County is about as Republican as an Ohio county can get. As for Licking, from 1961 to mid-1982, it was part of a district represented in Congress by nationally known conservative John M. Ashbrook, of Johnstown. In 1972, Ashbrook challenged the GOP’s renomination of President Richard M. Nixon. Ashbrook charged Nixon’s administration had “nearly decapitated American conservatism,” The New York Times later reported. Ashbrook also opposed Nixon’s outreach to China’s communist dictatorship. And now Donald Trump is playing trade-and-tariff poker with China.

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An out-of-state tally likely of interest to Ohioans was Tuesday’s overwhelming decision by Missouri voters to kill a Right to Work law which the Republican-run Missouri General Assembly passed and then-Gov. Eric Greitens signed. (Greitens, a Republican, resigned in May in the wake of a sex scandal.)

Missouri voters successfully petitioned to put the Right to Work law on the statewide ballot so Missourians could vote Right to Work up or down. On Tuesday, of the 1.4 million Missourians voting on the Right to Work issue, 67.5 percent voted “no.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that only 15 of Missouri’s 114 counties voted “yes” on Right to Work. An analysis by the newspaper projected that as many as 331,000 Missouri Republicans “bolted from their party” to vote “no” on the Right to Work ballot issue, known as Proposition A.

Now pending in Ohio’s House – but seemingly dead in the water – is a proposed Right to Work amendment to the Ohio Constitution. The measure was introduced in December by Republican Reps. John Becker, of suburban Cincinnati, and Craig Riedel, of Defiance. Among co-sponsors of the Right to Work amendment is Rep. Kristina Roegner, a Hudson Republican who is running for the state Senate.

To reach the ballot, the Becker-Riedel plan would have to win at least 60 “yes” votes in the 99-member Ohio House; and 20 votes in the 33-member state Senate; then win a majority of “yes” votes from those Ohioans voting on the measure in a statewide election. The one time that was tried in Ohio, in 1958, 63.3 percent of the Ohioans voting on the proposal voted “no.”

If you wonder why Ohio’s General Assembly (with a Senate that Republicans have run since November 1984, a House that the GOP has run, except for two years, since November 1994) hasn’t passed Right to Work, 1958 is the answer – underlined, last week, by Missouri. 

Thomas Suddes, a member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

To reach Thomas Suddes: tsuddes@cleveland.com, 216-999-4689

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