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Troy Balderson with President Donald Trump. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans are claiming a victory by less than 2,000 votes in the Ohio special election.

Expand chart
Data: Associated Press; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: Troy Balderson may have claimed victory over Democrat Danny O’Connor (who's not conceding yet), but after out-spending Democrats five-to-one and winning by less than one percentage point, it's not much for Republicans to celebrate.

Be smart: This race was more about Trump vs. Nancy Pelosi than Balderson, and his victory gives Republicans evidence that their tried-and-true playbook still works.

  • The president campaigned with Balderson just days before the primary and Republicans tied O’Connor to a number of ads tying him to Pelosi.

President Trump immediately claimed victory, tweeting: "When I decided to go to Ohio for Troy Balderson, he was down in early voting 64 to 36. That was not good. After my speech on Saturday night, there was a big turn for the better."

The bottom line: Republicans will sleep a little easier tonight, but this victory won't reassure them that the House isn't lost come November. There's no reason a district that is overwhelmingly white and that voted for Trump by 11 points in 2016 should've been this close.

  • This is a telling statement from Congressional Leadership Fund Executive Director Cory Bliss: "While we won tonight, this remains a very tough political environment and moving forward, we cannot expect to win tough races when our candidate is being outraised. Any Republican running for Congress getting vastly outraised by an opponent needs to start raising more money."

One more thing: There are 79 GOP districts more competitive than Ohio's 12th, where Trump got less than the 53% he earned in this district in 2016.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
33 mins ago - Sports

College basketball is back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new season of college basketball begins Wednesday, and the goal is clear: March Madness must be played.

Why it matters: On March 12, 2020, the lights went out on college basketball, depriving teams like Baylor (who won our tournament simulation), Dayton, San Diego State and Florida State of perhaps their best chance to win a national championship.

39 mins ago - World

Scoop: Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

Wall Street bets it all on a vaccine

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It's the time of year when Wall Street shops are rolling out predictions for where they see the stock market headed in the coming year. There's one common theme: Widespread distribution of a vaccine is the reason to be bullish.

Why it matters: Analysts say vaccines will help the economy heal, corporate profits rebound and stock market continue its upward trajectory.