Ohio special election, a referendum on Trump, is too close to call

A special election for an open U.S. House seat in Ohio that was viewed as a referendum on President Trump remains too close to call. 

With 99 percent of early and election day ballots counted, Republican Troy Balderson led Democrat Danny O’Connor by 1,688 votes, or 0.8 percent, but provisional ballots had yet to be counted. Green Party candidate Joe Manchik received 1,120 votes. If the race is within 0.5 percent, Ohio requires an automatic recount of the votes.

The 12th District has been held by a Republican for over 30 years and was expected to be an easy win for Balderson, but late polling showed the race to be a virtual tie, forcing the party to spend millions to try to avoid defeat.

The unexpectedly competitive race has fueled speculation of a coming blue wave for Democrats in November, but Republican super-PACs and the president have stepped up their support for their flagging candidate. In the final stages of the campaign, Trump tweeted his support for Balderson eight times, including on Tuesday morning.

“Ohio, vote today for Troy Balderson for Congress,” the president wrote. “His opponent, controlled by Nancy Pelosi, is weak on Crime, the Border, Military, Vets, your 2nd Amendment – and will end your Tax Cuts. Troy will be a great Congressman. #MAGA

Related: Ohio special election -- Danny O’Connor and Troy Balderson

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Ohio special election -- Danny O'Connor and Troy Balderson
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Ohio special election -- Danny O'Connor and Troy Balderson
NEWARK, OH - AUGUST 07: Supporters of Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson watch early returns in Ohio's special election for the 12th Congressional District at Balderson's election night party at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on August 7, 2018 in Newark, Ohio. Voters in Ohio's 12th Congressional District are choosing between Democrat Danny O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson for Congress in today's special election. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor, in Ohio's 12th congressional district, speaks with the media after casting his vote during Tuesday's special election in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Republican candidate Troy Balderson, in Ohio's 12th congressional district, waits to greet voters at a polling station during the special election in Newark, Ohio, U.S., August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Children wave U.S. flags at an election night party for Democratic candidate Danny O?Connor in a special congressional election in Ohio?s 12th district, in Westerville, Ohio, U.S., August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor, in Ohio's 12th congressional district, walks with his fiancee Spenser Stafford to a polling station to cast his his vote during Tuesday's special election in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Republican candidate Troy Balderson, in Ohio's 12th congressional district, shakes hands with a voter at a polling station during the special election in Newark, Ohio, U.S., August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A sign for Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor, in Ohio's 12th congressional district, is seen outside a house ahead of Tuesday's special election in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 07: Charmon Barnes makes a sign to direct voters at a polling place on August 7, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. Voters in Ohio's 12th Congressional District are choosing between Democrat Danny O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson for congress in today's special election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ohio Senator Troy Balderson goes in for the handshake with U.S. President Donald Trump during a Make America Great Again rally in Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, OH, U.S., August 4, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
NEWARK, OH - AUGUST 07: Voters head to the polls at the Licking County Family YMCA to vote in the special election for Ohio's 12th District on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 in Newark, Ohio. Voters in Ohio's 12th Congressional District are choosing between Democrat Danny O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson for Congress in today's special election. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
WESTERVILLE, OH - AUGUST 07: Troy Balderson, the Republican congressional candidate, stops briefly at Genoa Baptist Church to greet voters participating in the special election for Ohio's 12th District on August 7, 2018 in Westerville, Ohio. Voters in Ohio's 12th Congressional District are choosing between Democrat Danny O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson for congress in today's special election. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 07: Ohio Democratic congressional candidate Danny O'Connor speaks to reporters after casting his vote in the special election on August 7, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. O'Connor is in a close race with Republican challenger Troy Balderson for Ohio's 12th Congressional District which is being decided in today's election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
NEWARK, OH - AUGUST 06: Ohio Democratic congressional candidate Danny O'Connor visits the River Road Coffeehouse while campaigning on August 6, 2018 in Newark, Ohio. O'Connor is in a dead heat race against Republican challenger Troy Balderson for tomorrow's special election in Ohio's 12th Congressional District. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Trump also held a rally for the Republican on Saturday to try to motivate voters to go to the polls in a district that he easily won in 2016.

Balderson tried to walk a line between moderate factions of the party and the conservative side. He won the endorsement of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vocal opponent of the president.

O’Connor remained mostly silent about Trump during the campaign, instead speaking on local issues like healthcare and the opioid crisis. Former Vice President Joe Biden recorded a robocall on the eve of the election, as a last second pitch for O’Connor.

Kasich, who once represented the 12th District, told ABC News on Sunday that the race should have been a “slam dunk” for Republicans. Outside money poured into the race, mostly from the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Because the winner will serve out the rest of retiring GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi’s term, the elected candidate will have to defend his seat in November.

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