Collecting and reposting my state of the election notes from https://www.facebook.com/groups/IndivisibleOHDist15/permalink/505002666610097/
The polling from the week before the 12th's special election showed Rep. Stivers about 7-9 points ahead. The 15 point lead predicted by 538's "standard" model is likely an overreaction to the narrow R win in the 12th.
He has much better name recognition and is currently running an unopposed air campaign (TV/radio/internet ads), plus an incumbent advantage. He's also one of the Republicans' top fundraisers.
Against all that, this is going to be a blue wave year, with about a +10 advantage for the Democrats. Neal's fundraising has been much more vigorous than usual for the district, though to get up to par would require a massive surge. The Senate and Governor's races may provide some additional coattails.
Based on the distribution of votes from the past couple of elections, the Democrats need to bank large leads in Franklin County and Athens, and reduce the Republican lead in Madison and Fairfield (Lancaster area).
Franklin is a game of suburbs: Upper Arlington, Hilliard, Grove City, Obetz. (going from D-->R strength).
To win, the Democrats must have both an excellent ground game (GOTV), which I think they have, and an impactful and constant air campaign (TV/radio/internet). While I've tweaked Rick Neal about this on a semi-regular basis, it's really an area where ODP has fallen down, and the bulk of the criticism needs to fall on them. Failure to market on air leads to poor fundraising numbers and poor turnout. Failure to get on air in the summer allows their opponents to set the terms of the debate.
Absent a compelling purchased ad campaign, I'd expect that every down-ballot Democrat should be throwing themselves in front of every camera and microphone in the world, acting as if they've already won and are just waiting to be sworn in. Earned media can make the difference.