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.