Will Ohio Go Against The National Trend In 2020?

The state of Ohio has long been seen as a crucial state, and no Republican has been elected President without winning Ohio, including Donald Trump in 2016.

So only Gerald Ford has been a Republican President and lost Ohio, when he ran for a full term against Jimmy Carter in 1976. Once we knew that Carter had won Ohio, it was clear Ford would not have a full term, after succeeding the resigned Richard Nixon in 1974.

When one looks at party history since the Republican Party was founded in 1854, we find only five elections in which the Republican candidate lost Ohio to a Democrat, as follows:

John C. Fremont 1856 lost to James Buchanan

James G. Blaine 1884 lost to Grover Cleveland

President Benjamin Harrison 1892 lost to former President Grover Cleveland

Thomas E. Dewey 1944 lost to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Richard Nixon 1960 lost to John F. Kennedy

So only three Democratic Presidents have won the White House without winning Ohio–James Buchanan in 1856, Grover Cleveland in 1884, and John F. Kennedy in 1960, with Cleveland second time and FDR fourth time winning a return to the White House without winning Ohio.

Right now, polls show Donald Trump winning Ohio by 5 points instead of the 8 point lead he had over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

So if polls hold up, Joe Biden will be the fourth Democrat to become President without Ohio, only the sixth time in 166 years, and the first time since 1960.

Ohio has been steadily losing electoral votes, as the balance of population has moved South and West, and will likely lose one electoral vote in 2024 and 2028, going down from 18 to 17, so will have less impact politically in the future!

8 comments on “Will Ohio Go Against The National Trend In 2020?

  1. D September 9, 2020 2:21 pm

    Effective Wednesday, September 9, 2020, here are two sources one may want to consider with 2020 Ohio:

    • https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2020/president/oh/ohio_trump_vs_biden-6765.html

    • https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/ohio/

    I am looking at this, perhaps, differently.

    In the Republican presidential pickup year of 2016, Donald Trump flipped and carried Ohio by +8.07. His U.S. Popular Vote margin was –2.09. But, had Trump won the U.S. Popular Vote, I estimate his margin would have been between +2.15 to +2.64. (That is based on a pattern of a net gain of +1 state with each percentage point nationally shifted toward a pickup winning party and its candidate. 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney lost by –3.86. Trump flipped six states—four of them Top 10 populous—as well as Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which is approximately one-half its statewide vote.) So, I don’t perceive 2016 Ohio as having performed 10 points redder than the nation. The outcome of that election was not consistent with historic voting pattern. It was, in a number of ways, a deviation from the norm.

    Donald Trump won Election 2016 primarily through the Rust Belt. Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore sensed the Rust Belt would determine that election. He cited Wisconsin (the tipping-point state), Pennsylvania, and Michigan to go along with Ohio. They combined for +64 electoral votes. 2012 losing Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s electoral-vote score was 206. (That, right there, was 270.)

    A lot of this has to do with where a state falls. For the Republicans. For the Democrats.

    In 2016, Ohio was the Democrats’ No. 28 best-performed state. (The party carried 20 states plus District of Columbia.)

    Since 1992, the average number of carried states was 29 with the range between 26 (a 2012 re-elected Barack Obama) and 32 (a 1992 first-term-elected Bill Clinton). And I think Election 2020 will, once again, see an outcome in this range.

    When the Democrats lost Elections 2000 and 2004, with nominees Al Gore and John Kerry having carried 20 and 19 states, Ohio was the party’s No. 24 and 22 best-performed state. When the Democrats prevailed in both 2008 and 2012, with pickup winner and re-elected Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. president carried 28 and 26 states. Ohio was the party’s No. 25 best state in both elections.

    I wrote about Ohio, and a number of other states, in a response to Ronald’s September 15, 2018 topic, “Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico: The Five Most Predictable States in Presidential Elections in American History” (https://www.theprogressiveprofessor.com/?p=34829).

    In my comment were lists regarding historic information and pattern. So, I prefer to not copy-and-paste that here.

    There is even more to consider on Ohio—perhaps the most reputable bellwether state (it voted for all winners, except in 1944 and 1960, since 1896)—with some trends I mentioned. This was in a response to Ronald’s September 30, 2018 topic, “The Midwest Battleground Will Determine the Political Future, and the Prospects for Democrats Look Good” (https://www.theprogressiveprofessor.com/?p=34962).

    I cited Ronald’s home state Florida as shaping up to be the nation’s best bellwether state. (I think both Ronald and I recognize a trend with Ohio which suggests it is in decline.)

    In the 2018 midterm elections, Florida was the only state which matched winning parties overall for: U.S. House (Democratic +40; Florida, on average with the nation, delivered a net gain of +2 as one of 21 involved states); U.S. Senate (a Republican net gain of +2; Florida was the only bellwether state to deliver a pickup to the overall winning party); and U.S. Governors (Republican hold of a majority-count 27. Democrats, who went from 16 to 23, needed to win the U.S. Popular Vote by +6. They won by +3. Had they reached, for a majority of 26, margins wise Florida would have been the party’s No. 24. Georgia and Iowa would have come in at Nos. 25 and, for the majority, 26).

    In 2016, when Donald Trump won his Republican pickup of the presidency, he flipped Florida and it came in as his No. 27 best state. (He carried 30.) It was his 260th original, cumulative electoral vote. For the 2016 Democrats, Florida was the party’s No. 24.

    In 2000, when Democrats lost with Al Gore and John Kerry, who carried 20 and 19 states, Florida was the party’s No. 21 and 25 best-performed state. In 2008 and 2012, when Democrats won with Barack Obama, who carried 28 and 26 states, Florida was the party’s No. 26.

    I mentioned, within the last two blog topics, that prevailing Democrats will carry at least 26 states. (That that number is their floor.)

    Florida is right there in rank. Right in that area where it is likely to continue its bellwether status. But, Ohio is in question.

    Florida has voted for all presidential winners, minus 1960 and 1992 Democratic pickup winners John Kennedy and Bill Clinton (both narrowly missed flipping the state), since 1928.

    In nearly every presidential election from the last 90-plus years, both Florida and Ohio carried for the winning party and its candidate.

    This can feel like routine.

    Here in 2020, the Democrats cannot flip and carry Ohio—to go along with Florida—if they win the U.S. Popular Vote by no more than +5 points. They need +6 if it turns out Ohio will again be their No. 28 state. To feel more comfort, a Democratic win by +7 makes it more likely to also flip and carry Ohio. A Democratic win by +8—and, as I was guessing (in the previous blog topic), +9—will definitely do it. (Since 1960, but with exception of 1992, prevailing Democrats have carried +21 or +22 states in excess of their percentage-points margin in the U.S. Popular Vote.)

    Even though they have voted the same in all U.S. presidential elections since 1928, minus 1944 and 1992, I sense a drop-off with Ohio isn’t going to stop Florida from continuing its streak. (Donald Trump’s 2016 U.S. Popular Vote was –2.09. Had he won on that level, it would have been +2. Florida gave him a margin of +1.19.)

    The Sunshine State has voted with the winner in 6 consecutive elections, since 1996, and with each cycle it performed within 5 points (from the margin in the U.S. Popular Vote) and will likely do so again here in 2020.

    Unless Ohio comes back to rank around the middle for the Democrats, it finishing around Nos. 28 to 30 makes the Buckeye State a question mark. And that deals with regard for the margin in the U.S. Popular Vote, for a prevailing Democratic Party and its candidate, and with whether that would be enough to also flip and carry Ohio.

    I mentioned in that September 15, 2018 comment, Ohio is on a streak of having been carried—without interruption—in 14 consecutive cycles (the latest, 1964–2016). The record is shared by Nevada and New Mexico. Their unbroken streak of 16 consecutive cycles ran from 1912, when New Mexico entered the union and voted for the first time, until 1972. So, Ohio is right on the edge: The state can either can keep it up, match that Nevada-and-New Mexico record, and even surpass it—or it is bound to experience a coming-up occurrence of having not carried for a presidential-election winner. (It would be a winning Democrat who sees Ohio end up in the column for a losing Republican.)

    Again—this has much to do with where states come in. If a bellwether state drops off, a different state emerges to replace it.

    I think, frankly, if Ohio drops off, neighboring Rust Belt states Pennsylvania and Michigan—which have voted the same in all but three elections since the Republicans first prevailed with Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (that is, 37 of the last 40 cycles and 92.50 percent aligned)—will pick up the slack. In fact, Michigan was the best state for reflecting the U.S. Popular Vote for U.S. House in both 2016 and 2018. (Its margins were Republican +1.06 and Democratic +7.68. Those separate parties prevailed nationally by +1.08 and +8.56.) With Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the trio’s 2018 average was +8.51 to the Democrats having flipped the U.S. House by +8.56. You can tell, with those numbers, why I cite this Rust Belt trio as the most influential states electorally for both 2016 and 2020. From 1992 to 2012, Michigan—the bluest—often ranked for the Democrats between Nos. 13 to 16. When they lost it in 2016, it came down to the party’s No. 21. Since 2000, the party which won the U.S. Popular Vote for U.S. House also prevailed for U.S. President.

    I think much of this topic, and points made, can be taken into consideration with respect for how things can and do change. Change with Ohio. Change with some other states.

  2. Ronald September 9, 2020 4:01 pm

    Thanks again, D, for your perceptive details! Much appreciated by all of us who read this blog! 🙂

  3. Princess Leia September 9, 2020 5:38 pm

    That’s a prize Trump definitely does not deserve!

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