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RealClearPolitics: Swing State Review: OHIO Parts I and II
July 16, 2008
Swing State Review: Ohio, Part 1

Today I initiate a new series of essays that will discuss the electoral landscape of the swing states.* Each essay will consider a different state in some detail, outlining how partisanship in the state typically manifests itself, and what this manifestation might mean for November.

We'll begin with Ohio, which typically has been a crucial component of Republican voting coalitions ever since the Civil War. That being said, Ohio has not been a state that the Republican Party could necessarily count on. Since 1960, it has voted with the winning party in every cycle. That's 11 in a row. Plus, Ohio's popular vote has tracked closely with the national popular vote. Over those 11 presidential elections, Ohio's vote has deviated from the national vote by a scant 2%.

Ohio behaves like this because of its diversity. It has large populations firmly rooted in one party or the other. A great example of this can actually be seen in the famous election of 1896. In Ohio, Democrat William Jennings Bryan won 47% of the vote against William McKinley, of Canton. At first blush, that seems strange. Why didn't McKinley dominate his home state? The answer had to do with the state's diversity. McKinley was the candidate of prosperous American industry, Bryan of struggling farmers. Because Ohio was a state with sizeable farming and industrial elements, it split its vote between the two.

While the nature of the Republican and Democratic bases have changed - the fact remains that both parties have large enough bases that competitive elections are inevitable. The relatively narrow slice of voters in the center of the state is thus endowed with the power to swing many elections one way or the other.


July 21, 2008
Swing State Review: Ohio, Part II

In the previous installment, we analyzed partisan voting patterns in Ohio. Today's essay will apply this analysis to the upcoming election.

Let's encapsulate the last essay's observations in a simple visual presentation. The following picture measures the partisan "swing" of each Ohio county. 1

The lightest red, lightest blue, and purple counties generally vote as the state does. They are bellwethers. A few observations about them are noteworthy.

First, Ohio's mid-sized cities are in the political center. The purple counties in the northwest are near Toledo (in Lucas County). Dayton is in Montgomery County, another purple county. Ditto for Springfield, in Clark County, and Canton, in Stark County.

Second, there are lots of swing counties in the south. We noted last week that Democrats tend to win when they form an inverted "C" on the map - winning the counties along Lake Erie, the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, and the Ohio River. However, such a pattern is not a guarantee. While the eastern border is generally reliable territory for Democrats, the southern border is not.


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