Home Opinion OPINION: Ohio, now mostly red, is no longer a presidential bellwether

OPINION: Ohio, now mostly red, is no longer a presidential bellwether

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Justin Thompson, a senior studying journalism, argues that Ohio has stayed mostly the same demographically over the years, which no longer reflects the diversity shift in the rest of the country.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

Ohio’s decades-long streak as a guaranteed indicator of the presidential election came to an end on Saturday when Joe Biden secured the presidency over Donald Trump. Trump, the incumbent, won Ohio by nearly half a million votes, but the national vote favored the former vice president. 

The state’s rare presidential misstep begs the question: Is Ohio no longer an accurate microcosm of American politics, or was it just overdue for an election-day miss?

The conclusion of this round of elections has Ohio Republicans holding 12 of the state’s 16 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the GOP holding a 4-3 advantage in the Ohio Supreme Court. In addition, Ohio House Republicans added seats to their majority, despite a $60 million bribery scheme and a federal investigation involving GOP House member Larry Householder. 

In this election, President Trump, like he did in 2016, won traditionally blue counties like Lorain and Erie, while strengthening his grip on rural voters in the state’s central region. In the previous 14 presidential contests, Ohio’s vote only deviated from the national popular vote by an average of 1.63%. Ohio voted for the winner in each of those elections. 

Once all of this year’s votes are counted, Ohio is likely to be more than 12 percentage points off from the national average, since Trump won the state by 8.2%, and some sources say that Biden is expected to win nationally by 4.3%.

All this means that Ohio no longer thinks, or votes, in tandem with the rest of the country. But that is not the result of a seismic shift in Ohio’s politics. Rather, it is indicative of a demographically stagnant state in an increasingly diverse nation. 

Ohio is older, whiter and poorer than a majority of other U.S. states. These three factors, on a national scale, indicate an alignment with the Republican Party. As the beliefs of the country are molded by immigration, education and the stark generational divide, Ohio finds itself further and further affixed to one side of the political spectrum. 

It’s not that Ohio’s changed. It’s that it hasn’t. 

This does not mean that Ohio cannot still be considered a good historical measuring stick for the fate of the presidency. After all, hitting 14 of the last 15 presidential elections is no small feat. But the state is undoubtedly turning red. If the nation as a whole begins to shift toward a Republican alignment, then Ohio could still find itself as a harbinger of national politics. 

After its voting patterns in the last two elections, however, Ohio can no longer be considered a swing state. Democrats have to fight tooth and nail for each victory outside of urban centers, while Republicans can seemingly cruise to victory all over the state.

As America welcomes a new president, it is obvious that Ohio no longer mirrors the country’s political leanings like it once did. While the nation changed in a myriad of demographic categories, Ohio is more or less the same state it was a few decades ago.

For the first time since 1960, Ohio did not predict the president. Barring a massive influx of Republican voters around the country, its time as a bellwether state is over. 

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