WASHINGTON -- A special election in Ohio on Tuesday could hint at how November's midterms will play out.

  • Special election in Ohio 12th Congressional district
  • President Trump campaigned for Troy Balderson
  • If Danny O'Connor wins, implications for both parties

Danny O'Connor, a moderate Democrat and current county recorder, is looking to pull off an upset win against Republican State Sen. Troy Balderson to represent Ohio's 12th congressional district.

Campaign ads for both candidates give a glimpse into what faction of their respected political parties they are hoping to represent.

"[House Speaker] Paul Ryan's not doing anything for working families," O'Connor says in one ad, "but we need new leadership on the Democratic side of things too."

In one of Balderson's ads, a narrator states: "Troy Balderson knows about walls. He'll build Trump's wall and defend Christian values."

"What happens in Ohio can make an impact on what happens in another state come November," said American University Professor Jason Mollica.

President Trump confirmed how high the stakes are by flying to Ohio on Saturday to campaign for Balderson – in a district Trump won easily in 2016.

"So we have a man that's going to fight for you," Trump said during the rally. "He's going to fight for Ohio and he's going to be here for a long time."

But the reliably red seat has turned vulnerable since Republican Congressman Patrick Tiberi announced he was retiring after 17 years -- and Democrats looked to swoop in.

The most recent poll in the race from Emerson College showed O'Connor up by 1 point, in a race that originally seemed to be Balderson's two months ago, according to Real Clear Politics.

Professor Mollica, who studies political messaging, said the outcome of Tuesday's special election could lay out a broader path to success for Democrats if O'Connor wins.

"I think that ends up showing that Democrats across the board, even the moderate ones, want to see change in Washington again," he said. "They do not approve of what the president is doing."

"Then again," Mollica said, "if Balderson wins, then this kind of throws a wrench into the plans for Democrats who have been looking to make some more strides."

Mollica said an O'Connor victory could signal to Democrats that moderate is the way to go in a midterm season up against the party of Trump.

"If you see O'Connor win, I think that's another shot at the Republican ship that says we're starting to take on some water here," Mollica said.

While its political impact may last, the result of this special election will be short-lived.

Tuesday's vote only determines who will hold the seat in Congress for the rest of Tiberi's term.

Then Balderson and O'Connor will go against each other again in November to decide who gets a full term in office. ​