To the political media, pollsters, election statisticians, and pundits alike, Ohio is a very special state. Not only is it a vital swing state that could help a candidate hit that magic 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, it also is a very good litmus test to see how each candidate perform in the general election.
“The reason Ohio is so important is that it is a very diverse state. It’s that traditionally it’s been a good microcosm of the country as a whole. No state is a perfect mirror but Ohio comes very close,” wrote James Warren, contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report, in an Ohio breakdown earlier this year. “When the U.S. is divided politically, that division tends to run right through Ohio.”
The Ohio microcosm is so accurate that it has correctly predicted the winning presidential candidate in 35 of the past 40 presidential races, making it the subject of extensive media attention in the run-up to the election. However, the swing state seems more fixed in the 2016 election cycle.
Various outlets have reported that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is gaining traction and turning every swing state into a “must-win” situation for Donald Trump.
Following the first debate, CNN reported a rise in Clinton’s polling numbers were due to a post-debate spike, but said that Trump still had his grip on Ohio. Last week, The Chicago Tribune reported that Clinton has warned supporters to not get complacent, and to remain fully engaged in order to put up a fight in Ohio – a sign that the campaign is feeling the heat to win the state.
Clinton surrogates have been essential to the campaign in the past weeks, which have themselves been a hot topic for the media – especially in the Ohio fight. Former President Bill Clinton spoke in Columbus this past Saturday, underscoring the importance of the state:
“[…] It is all coming down, like it normally does, to a handful of places, include Ohio,” President Clinton said. “If you carry Ohio for Hillary, she will be the next President of the United States.”
President Obama is also set to make an appearance in Ohio on Tuesday to keep the energy high and encourage early voting. Despite these efforts, Ohio is acting more of a “pink” state than a swing state this time around.
Absentee ballot numbers have given us some insight before election day. Dark red counties in Ohio have high voter turnout this election cycle, and those in counties who voted for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 have requested around 52,000 more ballots this election cycle. On the other hand, counties that traditionally vote Democrat have requested 39,600 fewer absentee ballots than they did in 2012.
Bob Puduchik, Trump’s campaign director for the state of Ohio, shared insights about the campaign strategy in an interview with Cleveland.com:
“When it matters the most in getting voters to the polls, Hillary Clinton’s legions of paid staff cannot match Mr. Trump’s grassroots movement,” Paduchik said. “This massive enthusiasm gap is reflected in early and absentee voting returns, which show that Hillary Clinton’s low-energy campaign to preserve the status quo in Washington isn’t motivating regular Ohioans to actually get out and vote.”
While Donald Trump has minimal presence in other swing states like Virginia, the Ohio movement is strong. In this case, geography matters.
Ohio was once an industrial center that was home to large manufacturing companies and had the infrastructure to transport products across America. Free trade agreements and outsourcing devastated the economy, leading to rapid population decline and a flight from urban areas. As a result, these Americans are receptive and care about issues like trade and immigration.
Ohio voters who are with Trump do not see him as a traditional Republican. In their eyes, he is a man that will restore the economy and provide stability, an idea which is appealing to conservative Democrats as well.
“The labor unions, who usually support the Democrats, a lot of our members, and a lot of their families, are supporting Trump,” said Keith Strobelt, a political director for the United Steelworkers local union in Canton in an interview with Reuters.
Donald Trump is crossing traditional party lines in Ohio in a way that Clinton is managing to in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina, states with higher suburban, white-collar populations.
While the microcosm of Ohio would seems to indicate a Trump presidency, Clinton has a hold over the majority of the voters in undecided states. Clinton leads Trump by 126 electoral votes according to a current count by RealClearPolitics.
With Trump currently holding a 1.2 percent lead over Clinton in the RealClearPolitics average, Ohio could very well go red this election cycle – even if a Democrat wins the White House.