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OU alum Kyle Kondik explains why Ohio picks the president

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Author and political analyst Kyle Kondik explained how Ohio functions as a bellwether for presidential elections in the Authors at Alden series event Tuesday night.

Kondik, a graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, recently released the book “The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.” Kondik is the director of communications at the University of Virginia Center for Politics and the managing editor of its newsletter Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Ohio is often a bellwether, or leading indicator, of how the country will vote in presidential elections, having voted for the winner in 28 out of the past 30 elections. The state is also, on average, only two points off from the national voting average.

Ohio is also representative of the nation demographically, though it is more white than average because of a small Hispanic and Asian American population. For this reason, Ohio tends to trend slightly more Republican than nationally.

Kondik said that while other states like Nevada and New Mexico closely align with national demographics and are good indicators of presidential elections, they have so few electoral votes that they are not as important as Ohio.

Every Ohio urban county has been trending Democratic in the past years because of a younger, more diverse and more educated population, according to Kondik. Even Cincinnati, one of the last remaining conservative urban areas, has been more Democratic in the last few years.

“If Hamilton snapped back to Republican for Trump, that would probably be a good indication that people aren’t working out for Clinton in Ohio, and maybe nationally too.”

Conversely, the Appalachian area has trended away from the Democratic Party since 2000 with the exception of Athens county, which has stayed strongly Democratic because of the university.

Certain bellwether counties in Ohio can help predict how the state will vote. Stark County, where Canton is located; Montgomery County, with Dayton; and Hamilton County, with Cincinnati, are all generally close to how the state will vote, according Kondik.

Kondik noted a Republican has never been elected president without winning Ohio.

Beyond the presidential election, Kondik forecasts that Republicans will maintain control of the House of Representatives and that whichever party wins the White House will narrowly take control of the Senate.

However, he said the midterm vote is often a protest against the current administration and will probably change at that point.

In an analysis of the debate, Kondik said that while Clinton’s win may bolster her next polling numbers, this rise probably will not be permanent. He compared it to her high numbers after the Democratic convention, which disappeared soon after.

He also said that while Clinton did a better job of addressing her liabilities than Trump did, most viewers tuning in had already made up their mind about voting preference.

“It’s a tall order for someone who’s never been elected to office before to go to the debate and perform well,” he said. “He’s got this barrier to cross in terms of qualification and he’s not particularly conversant on policy, at least in the way Clinton is.”

In regard to how third-party candidates will affect the election, Kondik said that Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein will not win any electoral votes but will perform better compared with past years.

“They tend to be hurting Clinton a little more than Trump, and one of the reasons why is that a lot of younger voters don’t really like Clinton, they really don’t like Trump, and up to a third say they’re going to support Stein or Johnson. That’s too high of a number for Clinton because she needs a big margin of those youngest voters.”

He continued, stating Clinton’s outreach to young voters should be focused on getting votes from the more liberal side.

“On one hand, she’s trying to appeal to Republicans who don’t like Trump but on the other hand she’s trying to appeal to young voters who are basically the most liberal voters who overwhelmingly supported independent socialist Bernie Sanders,” Kondik said.

“My thinking is that the wiser move for her is to go even further left and to paint Donald Trump as a traditional Republican.”

Ultimately, young voters will play a key role in which candidate wins Ohio. Millennial voter turnout is low compared with other generations, but as the most liberal generation, they could help skew Ohio toward the Democratic Party.

“Given that millennials are the most liberal and democratic of the age groups at this point in history, the larger the millennial turnout, the better it is for Clinton,” Kondik said.

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