COLUMBUS, Ohio--A new poll in the special-election race for Ohio's 12th Congressional District indicates that Democrat Danny O'Connor has work to do if he hopes to upset Republican Troy Balderson.
Balderson, a state senator from Zanesville, holds a 10-point advantage (43 percent to 33 percent) over O'Connor, the Franklin County recorder, among potential voters in the Aug. 7 special election, according to a Monmouth University survey released Monday. The Central Ohio district has been vacant since Republican Pat Tiberi stepped down in January.
In addition, two voter models by Monmouth - based on a historical midterm turnout and a Democratic surge - also show Balderson ahead, though near the range of uncertainty. Given that 21 percent of voters are still undecided, this means there's a chance O'Connor still might be ahead, but it's likely that Balderson has the lead.
The Monmouth poll found Democrats in the 12th District aren't as enthusiastic about the race as they have been in earlier special-election races, where Democratic candidates have either won or were competitive in red-leaning districts.
"Balderson seems to be doing reasonably well with core GOP voting blocs, but O'Connor is not running up the score in areas where he needs to over-perform in order to pull off the upset," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a statement.
The survey found 44 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans have a lot of interest in the race. Forty-five percent of both Democrats and Republicans say they have been following the race at least somewhat closely.
"Democrats seem to be more settled on a candidate than Republicans and O'Connor may have an opening to win over some of those undecided voters. But the real challenge may be motivation rather than persuasion," Murray said.
Joe Manchik, the Green Party's candidate in the race, polled at 1 percent.
O'Connor is ahead 43 percent to 33 percent in his home county of Franklin, which includes about a third of the district's voters. But Balderson leads in the rest of the district, which covers Delaware, Licking, and parts of Marion, Muskingum, and Richland counties.
The poll was conducted by phone between June 7 and June 10 among 501 voters in the 12th district. The survey's margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points for the full sample and +/- 5.1 percentage points for the two likely voter models.