By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Twenty-three is the magic number for Democrats in November's midterm elections. That's the number of seats they need to win from Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives. We do not have a crystal ball that will tell the fortune of the Democrats and Republicans in November, so instead we use results from other races to predict the results.
At the time of writing, the Ohio special election - in the 12th Congressional District - between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O'Connor was too close to call, with 0.9 per cent of the vote separating the pair. But the fact that this race was too close to call reveals something about the midterms - and it is bad news for Donald Trump.
CNN argues that it shows just how daunting the political landscape facing Republicans is headed into November. The GOP has spent millions of dollars in this race to avoid an embarrassing loss, and the president visited the district days before the election. One of their takeaways from the Ohio special election is that it is "time for Republicans to panic about the House".
WIth only a net gain of 23 needed to take control, there are 68 Republican-held House districts that are more favourable for Democrats. CNN also explores the turnout in Ohio this week - voters in urban and suburban parts of the district voted at much higher rates than those in rural, more GOP-friendly areas. "The bottom line: Democratic voters are more energised, the suburbs are swinging in their favour and Republicans are sitting elections out. If the GOP can't undo that massive enthusiasm gap by November, its House majority is in serious jeopardy," they conclude.
Then you have to consider the demographic of Ohio 12. The alarm bells are ringing because the district is not "indicative of the kinds of places that will determine control of the House" - it is far more conservative. To quantify that point, NPR reports that there are 69 seats held by Republicans that either Trump won in 2016 by less than he won Ohio 12, or that Hillary Clinton won. There are also 72 GOP-held seats with partisan makeups that are equal or more liberal than this district. "In other words, this should have been an easy win for Republicans," they argue.
As well as the Ohio result making worrying signs for the Republicans, they have to fight against history in the midterms. "Midterm elections have always given voice to Americans' discontent with incumbent presidents, which means the opposition party almost invariably gains ground," CNBC explains. Combine that with Trump's unpopularity and it is a deeper challenge.
A new Gallup poll found that 54 per cent of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance. This exceeds the disapproval at a similar point for any of the previous six presidents, starting at Jimmy Carter.
There is still a long way to go until the midterm elections in November, but the result in Ohio - while it may still be a close Republican win - starts revealing the cracks in the GOP election machine.