In Ohio Election, Republicans Test a Midterms Rescue Plan: Polarization

“It tells me they have nothing else to talk about,” Mr. O’Connor said, adding: “I’ve said, time and time again: ‘I won’t vote for her, I won’t vote for her.’”

But in a stumble that delighted Republicans, Mr. O’Connor briefly appeared to put an asterisk on that position late last month. Insisting on MSNBC that he opposed Ms. Pelosi, Mr. O’Connor allowed that he would ultimately back the consensus Democrat for speaker over a Republican on the House floor — a formula that theoretically preserves Ms. Pelosi as an option.

Mr. O’Connor called the television questioning “procedural ‘gotcha’ stuff,” and said he remained opposed to Ms. Pelosi. But the error opened the way for Republicans to intensify their attacks.

During his visit, Mr. Pence drew sympathetic groans from a crowd in Licking County, a mainly rural area where the typical household income is about $10,000 below the districtwide average, by declaring in a misleading paraphrase that Mr. O’Connor admitted “he thinks Nancy Pelosi should be the next speaker of the House.”

And the Congressional Leadership Fund has given campaign workers a script instructing them to ask undecided voters whether they would back “Nancy Pelosi’s candidate.”

In Dublin, Ryan Sebastian, a teacher who leans toward Democrats in presidential races, paused at the question from a canvasser. Mr. Sebastian, 41, said in an interview he was uncommitted in the congressional campaign; Ms. Pelosi, he said, was a factor “to an extent.”

But Mr. Sebastian sounded uneasier about Mr. Trump, despite having hoped for the best after his election.

“My thought was: ‘You know what, there are millions of people who are smarter than me that voted for this guy. I hope they’re right,’” Mr. Sebastian said. “So far, I don’t think they are.”

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