The Swingers and the Drifters: Ohio County Watch

I thought we’d take a little walk through Ohio to see why campaigns may make stops where they do.  Looking at some data from the last few elections, there are five swing counties that went from Clinton to Bush to Obama mirroring the state of Ohio and also the nation: Lake, Ottawa, Sandusky, Tuscarawas, and Wood.

Lake County, represented by Steve LaTaurette, is just to the east of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County.  Barack Obama won the state of Ohio by 270K votes and he won Cuyahoga County by 260K.  Cleveland is important when it comes to turnout because their results can make up for many of the Democrat’s losses in the rest of the state.  In an entirely unrelated matter, Cuyahoga is also chronically late in reporting it’s votes which is why Kerry held out hope for most of election night and why Romney was declared the primary winner while Rick Santorum was still ahead in raw votes.

But returning to Lake County, they are slightly better off than the state average with regards to income and employment and certainly better off than the nearby cities of Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown.  The residents can enjoy the benefits of living close to a larger city without the problems that come with it.

Tuscarawas, represented by Bob Gibbs with the 2012 map including Bill Johnson, is just to the south of Stark (Canton), which is another bellwether county.  Stark gave its support to John Kerry in 2004, but otherwise has been a good barometer for the votes in the state.  Tuscarawas is a very small county of about 40K voters and is mostly known for the Amish and historical towns like Zoar and New Philadelphia.  It gave Barack Obama slightly more than 50% of it’s vote in 2008 after supporting Bush the previous two elections.  Tuscarawas is also a Ross Perot county giving him 24% of their 1992 vote and still supported him with 16% of the vote in 1996.  The 1996 vote was one of Perot’s strongest showings in the state.

The next three counties are all to the south and east of Toledo.  Wood County is the home of Bowling Green University and is about the size of it’s neighboring Sandusky and Ottawa counties put together.  Wood is in Bob Latta’s district, Ottawa will be split between Latta and Kaptur, while Sandusky will be represented by Jim Jordan.  Like Lake County, these residents can enjoy the benefits of living near a major urban area without some of the problems.

Some other honorable mentions include Montgomery, Hamilton, and Jefferson Counties.  Montgomery County is the home of Dayton, Wright State University, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  It has consistently voted for the Democrat but never by a lot.  Al Gore received less than 50% in the county.  Hamilton has consistently voted for the Republican, even giving Bob Dole a 7-point edge in 1996, but Cincinnati turned out for Barack Obama in 2008.  This area represents one of those House seats that flipped to Democrat in 2008 only to return to Steve Chabot in 2010.  We will have to see if this county continues to drift left or if that was just an outlier.

Finally Jefferson County is on the Ohio River border with West Virginia and represents the Appalachian part of Ohio that looks a lot like western Pennsylvania.  It has consistently voted for the Democrat, although Obama’s slim margin of victory in this county was a miniscule 0.21%.  Like West Virginia and western Pennsylvania, this region may be drifting to the right.  Rick Santorum made Stuebenville his home during the primary, and Mitt Romney would do well to pay these people a visit over the next hundred days.

Of course both candidates will be traveling to Ohio frequently, so keep these small cities and counties in mind when you hear that Obama or Romney are coming to Ohio… again.

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Obama’s Lead in Ohio Polls

Barack Obama continues to hold a lead in Ohio by 5 points in the RealClearPolitics rolling average.  Most recently was an 8 point edge for Obama among likely voters by WeAskAmerica.   My head says that Romney will win Ohio, my heart certainly hopes so, but then why are these state polls showing a consistent Obama lead?

WeAskAmerica polls include automated phona calls in addition to the standard live-person polling.  They unfortunately do not break down their results by demographics or region, only by party.  And it is here that we see that 19% of Republicans claim they will vote for Barack Obama.  Really?  WeAskAmerica realized that this result does not seem credible, yet this is what this particular set of numbers say.

Ohio and the Precarious Blue Wall

Just a quick observation regarding Ohio’s place in the electoral college at this moment in polling time. The RealClearPolitics map without toss-up states gives Obama a 332-206 lead as of July 6.  It gives Romeny the toss-up states of Missouri and North Carolina, but Obama wins the rest.  Well I’ve heard that Florida and Virginia will be drifting towards Romney as the year goes on which is why Obama will be making the Midwest his second home.  Flipping those two states puts the Obama lead at 290-248 which leaves him only 22 electoral votes to spare.

There are many ways for Romney to get to 22, and the easiest way would be to get Ohio (18 votes) plus any other state which at the moment includes New Hampshire (4 votes).  Pennsylvania (20) plus one would get him there also, but Ohio might be an easier get.  The other medium-sized toss-up states include Michigan (16), Wisconsin and Minnesota (10), and Colorado (9).  Nevada and Iowa (6) make up the balance.

John McCain did not win a single Great Lakes state – not even Indiana.  I think Romney can make this whole region competitive despite who he picks as Vice-President although the Midwest money should be on Rob Portman or maybe Paul Ryan, Tim Pawlenty or Mitch Daniels.  This all assumes that Florida and Virginia move to Romney because things will get much more difficult if those two states remain in the blue wall.

Ohio and ObamaCare

Last November, Ohio had split on two important issues on the ballot.  Most of the chatter was Issue 2 which would have allowed a law mimicking Wisconsin’s public sector union restrictions although it included police and fire unions.  It failed 38-62.  Also on the ballot was Issue 3, a health care “independence” measure which was a pre-emptive strike against ObamaCare.  It passed 66-34.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is an Ohio-based non-profit which has written a piece here and recently re-iterated some of its major points and action steps given last week’s stunning Jon Roberts ruling, which can be found at the Supreme Court website.  The pull quote for me was in the dissent:

As for the constitutional power to tax and spend for the general welfare: The Court has long since expanded that beyond (what Madison thought it meant) taxing and spending for those aspects of the general welfare that the Federal Government’s enumerated powers, see United States v. Butler, 297 U. S. 1, 65–66 (1936).  Thus, we now have sizable federal Departments devoted to subjects not mentioned among Congress’ enumerated powers, and only marginally related to commerce: the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

From the recent 1851 Center e-mail, there are three things that need to happen at this moment.

  1. Stop Ohio from implementing state-based exchanges.  Kasich seems to be leaning this direction although there is considerable pressure from the left and from progressive-thinking Republicans in the Ohio Legislature to take the money to start these exchanges.  We need to find who our State Representatives and Senators are and make sure they oppose any movement supporting Obamacare, and keep Governor Kasich true to his conservative instincts.
  2. Stop Ohio from expanding Medicaid.  In 2011, Ohio joined other states in arguing against the Medicaid mandate and that decision went in our favor 7-2.  So like Cleveland fans who expect disappointment from their sports teams, Tea Party supporters have grown to expect Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  We must explain to DeWine and Kasich that they have won and not to touch Medicaid until this storm blows over.
  3. Continue to mount a rights-based challenge.  This means that the Supreme Court decision mostly regards Congressional authority to impose such a mandate.   It has not decided on privacy rights or on freedom to associate issues, and these will surely come up as time goes on.

I hope that the Roberts decision was an aberration.  In his moderation, he seems to stretch to meet the liberals half-way.  But isn’t that the way it always is – conservatives reaching over to the left.  Which of the four liberal justices have ever reached over to the right?  It is a promising sign that Ginsberg trashed Roberts in her concurrence as much as he was trashed in the dissent.  And if conservatives weren’t galvanized enough for this 2012 election, I hope this will let us know that our battle is ongoing and never-ending.