As Ohio Goes, So Goes The Nation
“In presidential elections, Ohio is special precisely because it’s not special.”
That is the way author Kyle Kondik described the buckeye state at the Columbus Metropolitan Club Luncheon on Wednesday. Kondik spoke about how and why the way Ohio votes is representative of the nation, according to his book, “The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.” In the book, Kondik looked at 30 election cycles, from 1896-2012, finding that only twice, in the elections of Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and John F. Kennedy in 1960, has Ohio not voted with the eventual presidential winner.
To open, he cited three main reasons that Ohio is a bellwether state. He said that back when Ohio was settled, people migrated from different places including Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Virginia, creating a level of diversity in the state that remains today. Ohio also has no dominate region, with a healthy mix of urban, suburban and rural areas. There is no dominant industry like other states have, with the Fortune 500 countries based here covering a wide range of specialties. These factors give Ohio “some of everything, but not too much of anything,” like the nation as a whole, Kondik said.
Karen Kasler, the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Ohio Public Radio, asked Kondik’s questions on political topics, covering predictions for this year’s election, Central Ohio’s specific importance, and what the future looks like for Ohio as a bellwether state.
Columbus has been called “the swing city in the swing state,” but he said that isn’t completely true. Columbus and Franklin County are not swing areas anymore, as they consistently vote democratic in presidential elections, Kondik said.
Central Ohio is, however, a “swing region,” because many of the neighboring suburban counties could go either way. Even the difference of a 60/40 percent vs. 55/45 percent split in favor of a candidate in the Central Ohio counties will make a big difference in deciding who gets the state as a whole, he added.
For this year’s election, Kondik said that like many, he did not predict Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to have made the presidential ballot, considering the high negatives they each have.
“I have a fairly safe prediction for this election and that is that the libertarian party will have their best presidential election ever,” he said. “Why? Because their best (historic) performance was 1.1 percent”
Even with people voting third-party or voting across party lines, Kondik said historically, a candidate needs more than 90 percent of their own party members to vote for them in order to win the election.
“This election is a test of party unity I think, because we have two candidates who are kind of unpopular, but I would expect that the majority of the voters will come home,” he said.
The fact that the Republican national convention is taking place in Cleveland this weekend does not have any impact on the way the state will vote, judging by historical evidence. Looking forward, Kondik predicts that Trump would take the lead after the convention this weekend, and then Clinton will have a boost after the Democratic National Convention the following weekend. He added that, historically speaking, the polls become a lot more predictive after the conventions.
Kondik’s book argues that Ohio has become a more and more accurate bellwether state over the election cycles he studied, but it may not stay that way forever. Kasler pointed out recent census data that Ohio is almost 83 percent white, while the country is 77 percent white and Ohio has a 12.7 percent black population with the nation at 13.3 percent. The biggest difference lies in the hispanic population at just 3.6 percent in the state and 17.6 percent in the nation. Ohio’s population is not growing as fast as other states, which may cause it to lose electoral votes as well.
“I think if Ohio were not to be a bellwether in the future it would be precisely for that reason, its population is whiter than the nation,” Kondik said.
He added, that whites in the north don’t vote the same as they do in the south, and whites in Ohio tend to vote more democratic than the national average, so if that holds up it can remain a bellwether, but otherwise it will tend toward a Republican state over time.
Time will tell if Ohio keeps its Bellwether status, but Kondik said he hopes so, if only so that his book is not rendered obsolete.
For more information, visit www.ohioswallow.com/book/The+Bellwether.