The Note: Ohio squeaker sounds alarms for GOP

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks at a rally to show support for Ohio Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson in Lewis Center, Ohio, Aug. 4, 2018.PlayScott Olson/Getty Images, FILE
WATCH High-stakes Ohio special election too close to call

The TAKE with Rick Klein

A win is a win, even if it isn’t official yet. Yet the Republican Party can’t afford – literally cannot afford – to have to win like this.

A squeaker in a special House election in Ohio is making loud noises in a Republican Party that knows this race shouldn’t have been close.

Troy Balderson, Republican candidate for Ohios 12th Congressional District, greets a crowd of supporters during an election night party Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Newark, Ohio.AP
Troy Balderson, Republican candidate for Ohio's 12th Congressional District, greets a crowd of supporters during an election night party Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Newark, Ohio.

This goes beyond sounding alarms. It’s not about being awake for GOP incumbents – it’s about surviving, with a rematch in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District among the dozens of potentially competitive House contests on the expanded fall map.

The red wall appeared to hold, buffeted by President Donald Trump’s late visit, and by millions of outside spending that can’t be available in races like this in November.

The special attention afforded to special elections can’t exist everywhere. These two candidates get to battle each other again, just as their parties get to advance uncertain arguments into the fall.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

We know there is energy on the left, but what about on the far left?

Political stories Wednesday will predictably include lines about how Sen. Bernie Sanders was again unable to get his pick over the finish line. In Michigan, a state Sanders won in the 2016 Democratic primary, his choice in the Democratic gubernatorial primary came up short. The more moderate and, arguably, more traditional candidate, state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, won easily instead.

Maybe the takeaway there is that the party is not moving as far to the left, or as quickly left, as some would think ... or as the Republican Party is moving to the right.

PHOTO: Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer takes a tour with with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Aug. 7, 2018.Carlos Osorio/AP
Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer takes a tour with with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Aug. 7, 2018.

Maybe the takeaway though is that choice is still good for rebuilding the Democratic Party, inspiring turnout and shifting policy discussions.

Take the Democratic gubernatorial primary in New York, where the incumbent governor, Andrew Cuomo, has moved demonstrably to the left, laying out progressive policies ever since Cynthia Nixon, an insurgent Democrat, decided to run against him. And last year in Virginia's gubernatorial race too, the progressive choice might not have won, but the Democratic primary there focused largely on the issues that that part of the party was eager to talk about.

It's worth noting that the two congressional candidates the progressive senator campaigned for in Kansas do look poised to win in their primaries.

The TIP with Adam Kelsey

As of midnight, the margin in Ohio's 12th Congressional District special election was less than 1,800 votes, and while the election is still too close to call, largely due to the number of absentee and provisional ballots still outstanding, it is safe to say that it won't be won by the race's third candidate, the Green Party's Joe Manchik.

Manchik's 1,127 votes aren't enough to swing a majority to Democrat Danny O'Connor, but they are enough to draw the Franklin County Recorder within 0.5 percent of Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson, which, under Ohio law, would trigger an automatic recount.

Danny OConnor, the Franklin County recorder, speaks during an election night watch party at the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Westerville, Ohio.AP
Danny O'Connor, the Franklin County recorder, speaks during an election night watch party at the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Westerville, Ohio.

The situation is just the latest similarity between the race and Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District special election in March, ultimately won by now-Rep. Conor Lamb. In that contest, Lamb defeated Republican Rick Saccone by 755 votes, with Libertarian Drew Miller drawing 1,381 votes.

As of late Tuesday, Miller told ABC News that the election went exactly how he wanted it to. Part of Miller's aim was to prove that every vote counts, but the notion wasn't comforting to Saccone supporters and likely wouldn't be to O'Connor's either.

A possible solution to these situations is ranked-choice voting, in which a long-shot candidate's ballots are transferred to voters' second choices after their preferred candidate falls short. Maine became the first state to utilize the system statewide in its June primary.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Trump has dinner with supporters in Bedminster, New Jersey, at 7:30 p.m.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the State Department at 10 a.m.
  • The Department of Defense holds a press conference to provide an update on the remains recently repatriated from North Korea at 2 p.m.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks at the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Summit on Religious Liberty at 7:30 p.m.
  • QUOTE OF THE DAY

    "I’m here to take responsibility. Mr. Manafort had the same path." — Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s former associate, during cross-examination Tuesday.

    THE PLAYLIST

    ABC News' Podcast, "Start Here." Wednesday's episode features ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein breaking down the tightly contested Ohio special congressional election. Plus, 'Space Force' is closer to becoming a reality – but ABC News' Elizabeth McLaughlin says it may be short of what President Trump asked for. https://abcn.ws/2kY73dl

    NEED TO READ

    Ohio special election too close to call, GOP claims victory; Primary results come in for Michigan, Missouri. Voters in five states headed to the polls Tuesday, and both parties are looking for signs of strength and unity in their ranks less than three months until the first major U.S. election since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. (Roey Hadar, John Verhovek and Adam Kelsey) https://abcn.ws/2AHZEJZ

    Trump takes credit for Ohio special election win, but race remains too close to call. Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor may have been battling each other for months, but even after Tuesday’s special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, the race is still too close to call -- regardless of the GOP candidate's declaration of victory. (Roey Hadar and Adam Kelsey) https://abcn.ws/2vsg9F3

    Michigan primary: Whitmer, Schuette emerge victorious in gubernatorial races. In primary contests emblematic of the larger ideological battles raging in both the Republican and Democratic parties, the two favorites in the Michigan gubernatorial race emerged victorious from Tuesday night's primaries, setting up what is sure to be one of 2018's most competitive statewide races. (John Verhovek) https://abcn.ws/2vomHod

    Trump legal team set to reply to Mueller request for interview: Sources. President Donald Trump's legal team plans to respond to special counsel Robert Mueller's request for a potential interview with the president in the coming days. The response could happen as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News. (John Santucci) https://abcn.ws/2LWvBDH

    Mueller's 'star witness' returns for second day of testimony against Paul Manafort. All eyes were on Rick Gates Tuesday as the government's star witness testified against his former boss, Paul Manafort, in special counsel Robert Mueller’s federal tax trial against the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump. (Lucien Bruggeman, Trish Turner, Lauren Pearle and Katherine Faulders) https://abcn.ws/2MvIocc

    Former Trump campaign aides set up foreign lobbying shop in Corey Lewandowski's townhouse. Newly released records show two former Trump campaign aides have formed a new lobbying firm representing foreign interests, and its headquarters are located in the Washington D.C. townhouse of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. (Soo Rin Kim) https://abcn.ws/2vMFjgS

    Embracing 'Trumpism' in primaries a risky choice for some establishment GOP candidates. Republican candidates are facing an identity crisis of sorts in this election cycle, as uncertainty surrounds established GOP lawmakers running for higher office, after many who embraced President Donald Trump lost in favor of political novices who mirror 2016 candidate Trump. (Kendall Karson) https://abcn.ws/2MvU8Mc

    Progressives think Senate Democrats aren't doing enough to stop Kavanaugh confirmation. Among professional strategists and volunteer activists, especially those to the left in the Democratic Party, there is a growing frustration that Democratic Senate leaders are not thinking outside the box and doing enough to keep President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, from being confirmed. (MaryAlice Parks) https://abcn.ws/2M0Uiif

    US declines to take sides in heated Saudi, Canadian fight over human rights. Saudi officials reacted with fury to Canada’s criticism over the arrest of a Saudi Arabian human rights activist: expelling Canada’s ambassador and withdrawing their own ambassador from Canada, suspending flights from Saudi Arabia to Canada, halting all new Saudi business and investments in Canada, and issuing what to many Canadians appeared to be a veiled threat of terrorist violence. (Conor Finnegan) https://abcn.ws/2OktyG2

    President Trump's 'Space Force' prepares for launch. President Donald Trump’s call for a "Space Force" may sound like something out of this world, but it’s set to come one step closer to reality this week when the Pentagon is expected to deliver to Congress its plans to strengthen the Defense Department’s space efforts. (Jordyn Phelps and Elizabeth McLaughlin) https://abcn.ws/2nj08N6

    Joe Biden announces social media campaign #AsYouAre to promote LGBTQ acceptance. Former Vice President Joe Biden has joined forces with singer Cyndi Lauper and former NFL player Wade Davis to launch the #AsYouAre campaign -- a movement to spread acceptance of the LGBTQ community. (Karolina Rivas) https://abcn.ws/2niKnpB

    Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, is under investigation for bank fraud, The Wall Street Journal reports. Federal prosecutors in New York are apparently looking at Cohen’s income from his taxi-medallion business and his relationship with Sterling National Bank. https://on.wsj.com/2MaWMKf

    With a few months left before his term ends, House Speaker Paul Ryan reflects on his time in office — and the president — in a New York Times Magazine feature. When asked if he was one of the "you guys" — "the non-Trumpers" — Ryan replied, "Sometimes, yeah." https://nyti.ms/2M2Ginx

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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