Ohio's political future might lean Republican

Ohio's political future might lean Republican
Posted at 8:00 AM, Nov 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-12 08:17:26-05

Ohio has long been considered to be a presidential bellwether. 

That means Ohio picks the winner of a presidential election, and picks the winner by a similar margin as the country as a whole. And the state is pretty consistent at it: before this November election, the state failed to be on the winning side only two times since 1896.

But one political pundit who wrote the book on Ohio’s bellwether status thinks President-elect Donald Trump’s strong eight-point win here could be a sign of the state trending more Republican in the future.

“The state was not really a bellwether in this election. It’s gonna have the biggest Republican lean relative to the nation since before the New Deal in 1932,” Kyle Kondik, author of “The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President,” said. “It remains to be seen, but I think it’s possible that Ohio could be transitioning and becoming a traditionally Republican state.”

President Barack Obama won Ohio by almost three points back in 2012, close to his national popular vote margin of four points. But unofficial election results show Clinton winning the national popular vote by a tight margin, compared to the big win Trump had in Ohio.

Many political analysts say Ohio is losing its bellwether status because of its demographics: The state is over 80 percent white as of 2015, while the country as a whole is 77 percent white

While this might not seem like a big gap right now, the country's rising Hispanic population will put white people as a minority by 2060, according to U.S. Census data.  Minorities, especially Hispanics, tend to vote Democratic

And with states like California and Texas becoming more Democratic because of the influx of Hispanics to those states, states like Ohio which Hispanics aren't moving to as often might lean more Republican.

One part of Ohio’s bellwether legacy that is still intact: The state, by voting for Trump, picked the winner again. A big reason for Trump’s win in Ohio came from eastern Ohio counties swinging hard for Trump after voting for Obama in 2012, Kondik said.

“This might be a realigning election for some white places that stayed Democratic in recent years," Kondik said. "Certainly the Mahoning Valley is a place that swung hard to Trump." 

Ashtabula County was a county in Ohio that people thought Trump could flip toward Republicans, and it did flip: Obama won the county by 13 points, but Trump unofficially won it by 15 points.

The partisan divide between Hamilton County and the neighboring counties in Southwestern Ohio is also becoming wider.

“Hamilton County was probably more Democratic compared to the rest of the state than it ever has within the last one hundred years,” Kondik said. “Hamilton County was one of the few counties where Clinton did better than Obama back in 2012.”

Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in Hamilton County was about five points better than Obama performed in 2012.

Liam Niemeyer is a fellow with the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at