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Saturday
Aug042018

Trump heads to Ohio for rally, hopes to deliver victory for GOP candidate

Scott Olson/Getty Images(LEWIS CENTER, Ohio) -- Nearly five months ago, President Donald Trump parachuted into a formerly deep-red congressional district on a Saturday evening for one of his signature campaign rallies and a last-ditch effort to protect a House seat that, mere months earlier, would have been unfathomable to think could fall into Democratic hands.

On Saturday, the president may feel as if he’s come down with a bout of deja vu.

After his previous effort to stem the meteoric rise of now-Rep. Conor Lamb fell short in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election in March, Trump arrives here Saturday facing a similar task: preventing his political opposition from stealing away a district represented by its last GOP member for nearly two decades, as Democrats further seek to build midterm momentum.

In Saturday’s version in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, the role of Lamb is played by Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor, who, much like the Pennsylvania congressman, represents a wave of young candidates boosting Democrats’ ambitions of taking back a House majority in November. O’Connor, 31, is in the final days of a campaign run in a strikingly similar fashion to that of Lamb’s -- calling attention to his moderate views and pledging to work across the aisle while arguing for leadership changes for both parties.

While the district, which stretches from the suburbs north of Columbus to more conservative rural areas in Central Ohio and east of the state’s capital, was represented by Republican Pat Tiberi for the past 17 years, work by Democrats to reverse their fortunes in consistently noncompetitive regions has shown progress since Trump’s 2016 election, most notably In Pennsylvania-18.

Also, among other local races, there was a near-miss in the 2017 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

Hoping to avoid the fate faced by Lamb’s adversary Rick Saccone and receive an injection of energy from his appearance alongside the president is state Sen. Troy Balderson, who narrowly captured the Republican special election nomination over a Freedom Caucus-backed opponent. He has faced criticism in recent weeks, however, for a less-than-effective effort this far to unify the conservative and moderate poles of his party.

But, on Saturday morning, the president tweeted out his support for Balderson.

"Troy Balderson, running for Congress from Ohio, is in a big Election fight with a candidate who just got caught lying about his relationship with Nancy Pelosi, who is weak on Crime, Borders & your 2nd Amendment-and wants to raise your Taxes (by a lot). Vote for Troy on Tuesday!" Trump tweeted.

Saturday’s event at Olentangy Orange High School -- about 20 miles north of Columbus -- is Trump’s third campaign stop of the week after a Tuesday visit to South Florida to boost gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and a Thursday trip to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to stump for Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who is aiming to unseat the state’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

But neither of those races, which will both be decided in November, has the urgency of the Ohio special election taking place Tuesday, a fact apparent in Trump’s remarks.

While the president made the requisite sales pitch for each candidate at their events, his focus on the midterms was notably brief as he instead chose to harp on subjects from border security to the voter identification laws and his distaste for the media, in a potential preview of what could become 2020 re-election talking points. Like those in Florida and Pennsylvania before it, the stop to campaign Ohio shares the dual benefit of providing Trump an opportunity to proactively connect with his own swing state voters.

Regardless of the focus of his campaign stops, the president continues to draw large crowds of his most ardent supporters, some of whom in Pennsylvania drove from as far as two states away and waited in line for hours for the experience, despite being unable to vote for the Senate candidate. On Thursday, the president’s campaign moved Saturday’s event from the town of Delaware to here in Lewis Center, claiming it was to "accommodate more Ohioans."

While Balderson and O’Connor will spend another three days campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s special election, following Saturday's event, Trump is scheduled to return to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, to continue his weeklong summer vacation.

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