Ohio’s special Congressional election closely watched nationwide

Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson (L) speaks next to US President Donald Trump during a rally at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio, on August 4, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – President Donald Trump’s preferred congressional candidate — and his signature tax cuts — are about to be tested in battleground Ohio in the season’s final high-stakes special election.

The midsummer affair comes as Trump’s shadow looms over primary contests in four other states. None is bigger than Kansas, where the Republican president roiled the governor’s race by opposing the sitting Republican governor on the eve of the election.

Tuesday’s elections, like dozens before them, pit the strength of the Republican president’s fiery coalition against the Democratic Party’s anti-Trump resistance. The results will help determine the political landscape — and Trump’s standing within his own party — just three months before November’s midterm elections.

Voters in Ohio and Kansas join those across Missouri, Michigan and Washington state at the ballot box. But only Ohio will send someone to Congress after the votes are counted.

The script for Ohio’s special election is perhaps familiar: An experienced Trump loyalist, two-term state Sen. Troy Balderson, is fighting off a strong challenge from a fresh-faced Democrat, 31-year-old county official Danny O’Connor, in a congressional district held by the Republican Party for more than three decades. In an early, election morning tweet, Trump said Balderson would make a “great congressman.”

The winner will fill the seat previously held by Pat Tiberi, a nine-term Republican incumbent who resigned to take a job with an Ohio business group.

Trump himself campaigned at Balderson’s side just 72 hours before Election Day, a weekend appearance to help energize his loyalists in a district the president carried by 11 percentage points.

“It’s going to be tough, but we feel very positive, we feel very good with the amount of volunteers that we’ve had here, the enthusiasm, the amount of hours that we’ve put in,” Balderson said.