Home Election 2020 Why the DNC chose Westerville for the upcoming Democratic debate

Why the DNC chose Westerville for the upcoming Democratic debate

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The Ohio Democratic Party announced last week that CNN and The New York Times will host the fourth Democratic debate in October at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb located north of Columbus.

It is not uncommon for presidential candidates on the campaign trail to frequent big cities in Ohio, such as Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Ohio Republican Party even hosted both its party’s national convention in 2016 and a debate 2015 in Cleveland. 

Democratic candidates already view Ohio as an important campaign stop. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, for example, recently hosted town halls in the state’s manufacturing hubs such as Toledo and Youngstown to energize their support base.

Suburban neighborhoods in central Ohio, however, have not traditionally been stops along the campaign trail.

So why did CNN, The New York Times and the Democratic National Committee select Westerville for the next debate?

Shifts in voting patterns:

Westerville is a city located within Franklin and Delaware counties, both of which experienced shifts in voting patterns toward Democrats since 2012, according to David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

“With a mix of vibrant and diverse urban centers, growing suburbs, small cities and rural expanses, our state’s demography and geography have always made it a good stand-in for the country as a whole,” Pepper said.

President Donald Trump won Delaware County by about 16 points in 2016. The region, however, experienced an increase in Democratic support in 2018 for candidates such as Sen. Sherrod Brown, who lost the county by about 5 points.

Democrats in Franklin County experienced a 9% increase in support between both the 2016 and 2018 elections, according to Ohio Democratic Party’s 2020 memorandum. Westerville in particular saw a steady increase in Democratic support between 2012 and 2018.

“There are parts of the state that are growing and growing more diverse — and those are the same places where Democratic candidates are making inroad,” Pepper said.

Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, believes college campuses, such as Otterbein University, in suburban areas with large populations of young and traditionally Democratic voters could help the party’s chance of gaining votes.

“I know Ohioans are fed up with Trump’s never ending broken promises to hardworking families across the Buckeye State, and rightly so,” Perez said.

Swing state status:

Ohio has traditionally been a swing state in past presidential elections, voting for the last 14 elected presidents.

But lately, experts have questioned Ohio’s long-standing reputation as a swing state. Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia — and an Ohio University alumnus — said it’s possible for Ohio to continue trending further right of the national average popular vote.

Inside Elections, an election ratings publication, projects Ohio as “likely Republican” in 2020.

Discontent among suburban white women: 

Westerville experienced an increase in votes for Democrats in 2018, according to the state party’s memorandum

The party attributed the increase to shifts in how suburban white women voted. Fifty-six percent of white women approve of President Trump, while approve 40% disapprove, according to a recent national Quinnipiac poll.

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