Part of unifying the GOP hinges on highlighting an endorsement of Balderson from Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Trump's fellow Republican who embodies frustration with Trump on issues such as trade and immigration simmering within pockets of the party. In one ad sent out as part of a more than $2 million buy from the House GOP-linked Congressional Leadership Fund, Kasich says Balderson "has my vote" and "should have your vote, too."
O'Connor has tried to promote his areas of agreement with Kasich, as well. He said that he is "glad that Kasich and I stand together" on certain issues. Those include supporting expansion of the federal and state Medicaid insurance program for low-income Americans and "red flag" laws that bar access to guns for people with a history of domestic violence and mental illness.
On Sunday, Kasich claimed that Trump came to Ohio without an invitation from Balderson. The Republican's campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment on whether that is true.
He also contended that Trump's presence could actually hurt the Republican candidate because "the chaos that seems to surround" the president "has unnerved a lot of people."
"So suburban women in particular here are the ones that are really turned off," the governor told ABC's "This Week." "And you add to that the, you know, millennials, you — you have it very close. It's really kind of shocking because this should be just a slam dunk and it's not."
But national Republicans have had one notable politician on their minds more often than Kasich: Pelosi. Throughout the race, O'Connor has said he will not vote for the California Democrat for House speaker if Republicans take the House.
Then, pressed repeatedly late last month during an interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews, O'Connor said he would vote for whomever Democrats put forward for the leadership position. Republicans pounced on the comment: the National Republican Congressional Committee released a video dubbing him "Deceitful Danny." Pence called O'Connor a "Nancy Pelosi liberal" twice during his remarks last week.
On Tuesday, O'Connor shrugged off the criticism as Washington intrigue and said he supports new leadership om Congress.
"More Ohioans care about who our starting quarterback is going to be than inside Washington baseball," he said, while wearing a red Ohio State shirt. "And I've said from day one that I won't vote for Pelosi, I've said from day one that we need new leadership on both sides of the aisle. And insider procedural gotcha politics is never going to change that."
Mark Weaver, a Republican strategist who lives in the district and supports Balderson, contended that O'Connor "had some initial success painting himself as a moderate" before he "stumbled" in the interview with Matthews. While he expects the race to tilt toward the GOP, he noted that turnout could favor O'Connor.