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Democrats get crucial showings in Ohio

House battle set for November

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Democrats counting on Ohio to cut into the Republican edge in the House got strong showings from party-backed nominees, setting up some sought-after showdowns in November.

Two candidates, including an unusually well-funded congressional write-in, won Tuesday's primaries after early struggles or missteps. Strong Democratic challengers already were in place in two districts in which Republican Representatives Deborah Pryce and Steve Chabot are considered vulnerable.

Political outsiders in the state for more than a decade, Democrats needed clear victories in two open districts, a critical element of the party's hope that wins in scandal-tainted Ohio will help erode or overcome the GOP advantage in Washington. Democrats need to capture 15 seats to regain the majority in the House.

''Now that the strongest candidates have emerged in Ohio, Democrats are 100 percent on offense while Republicans are forced to defend districts all across the state," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Republicans argued that Tuesday's results produced bad news for Democrats, including a party-backed candidate who lost to an underfunded opponent in GOP Representative Bob Ney's district.

''I have a healthy campaign account, in contrast to the Democratic Party, which is deeply divided and has a candidate with almost no campaign cash," Ney said.

The six-term Republican remains entangled in the scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Nevertheless, he won his first opposed primary easily.

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