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Is Ohio still a swing state? Ohio State professors weigh in

Students vote in the midterm elections at the Ohio Union on Nov. 6. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The 2018 midterms saw Democrats make major gains in the House of Representatives across a swath of districts, but one state where the party didn’t find much success is Ohio.

Typically considered the quintessential swing state, Ohio’s status following recent results on the electoral map is being called into question.

Since President Donald Trump’s 2016 win, Ohio’s transition from a purple state to a red one has been dissected by many pundits and the widespread Democratic losses in the state in 2018 have prompted comparisons to Missouri, another former bellwether state in which Republicans now have a stable base.

Ohio has embodied the definition of a swing state, having picked the presidential winner in every election cycle since 1960. It is the site of fervent campaigning from both major parties during election season and is one of the most closely watched political climates in the nation.

However, Ohio had shown signs of moving toward being a Republican state since the beginning of the 1990s, having had only one Democratic governor since 1991. On top of that, Republicans have continued to hold a 24-9 supermajority in the Ohio Senate and a majority in the House.

Vladimir Kogan, assistant professor of political science at Ohio State, points to former Democrats who voted for Trump as a sign of the change.

“[Races are] still closer than a lot of other states, but it’s becoming less close, and I think part of that is that demographically the alignments — the people who used to be Democrats and are becoming Trump Republicans — are the kinds of people that Ohio has more of compared to other states,” Kogan said. “I think it’s important to note that Donald Trump carried Ohio by a larger margin than he carried Texas.”

Thomas Wood, assistant professor of political science at Ohio State, sees things a little differently, noticing an overreaction to Trump’s victory.

“I have to say [that Ohio is still a swing state,]” Wood said. “If Clinton had won Ohio and become president, we would not be saying that Republicans are now endangered here in Ohio, or that Ohio is now a permanently blue state, even though Obama was able to win Ohio twice.”

Wood said that Trump’s victory didn’t come down to Ohio’s status changing, but rather to mistakes made by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

He noted that Clinton could not turn out minority voters in Franklin, Hamilton or Cuyahoga counties — three historically democratic regions — and Trump exceeded expectations in the areas, and did “better than we would expect a Republican nominee to do among lower-education voters.”

Wood said education levels took a massive hold on people’s voting choices in 2016, in a nearly unprecedented way, but will most likely not be a persistent trend.

Even though blue-collar Democrats who went for Trump are continuing to vote Republican, the state is not so red as Wyoming, for example, and Ohio hasn’t entirely been written off yet. Sen. Sherrod Brown kept his seat in the U.S. Senate that he has occupied since 2006 and two Democratic Ohio Supreme Court candidates won, including Melody Stewart, the first black female judge to be elected to the position.