There’s been a lot of buzz about President Obama’s recent edge in key battleground states. But on November 6, Mitt Romney will carry the state of Ohio.
The Real Clear Politics Ohio average has Obama up 5.4%. But there is no doubt that even the RCP average contains significant bias, as PolicyMic pundit John Giokaris has shown in these pages and as others have argued here and elsewhere. One thing to keep in mind is that undecided voters almost always break against the incumbent. If you are an Ohio voter and Barack Obama hasn’t been able to sell you in three and a half years, is he going to make the sale in the last weeks of the campaign? Highly unlikely. An Obama lead of 5.4% in Ohio probably means the race is even.
Ohio is naturally a Republican state. It was carved out of the Northwest Territory with a prohibition against slavery, a principle that Republicans would defend in the nineteenth century against Democratic efforts to prolong the antebellum institution. Not surprisingly, Ohio voted Republican in every presidential election in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The 20th century has been more mixed, but the Republican advantage is clear. All statewide elected officials (non-judicial) in Ohio are currently Republican — Governor John Kasich, Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon A. Husted, Auditor Dave Yost, and Treasurer Josh Mandel. Although in an ideal world it wouldn’t be this way, everyone knows that having elected government on your side means your campaign is easier — from getting relevant documents, to getting advisers who see the field better than others, to raising cash. Given the six statewide offices just mentioned, Ohio has six statewide Republican campaign machines. These will prove a tremendous asset to Romney.
The Republican candidate has also carried Ohio six out of 10 times since 1972. Breaking down the numbers reveals a clearer dynamic. In all the years a Democrat won Ohio — ’76, ’92, ’96, and ’08 — foreign policy was not an issue, and Democrats were trusted more on the economy. One might argue that foreign policy was on the table in 2008, but with Iraq receding and the financial crisis exploding the economy was without a doubt much more important. Whenever the Republican presidential candidate, on the other hand, has been trusted on the economy — ’80, ’84, ’88, and 2000 — but equally, or additionally, so when America’s good name was being tarnished abroad – ’72 (Vietnam), ’80 (hostage crisis), and ’04 (Iraq) — Ohioans have voted for the Republican every time.
Mitt Romney is almost even or ahead of Barack Obama on the question of who would do a better job on the economy nationally, and he is almost even on the question of who would be better for Ohio's economy.
That leaves foreign policy — the game changer. Although in the wake of Libya the president continues to hold a slight advantage over Romney in foreign policy in battleground states, watch for that to change as images of hatred and violence combine with politically correct statements from the president such as, “Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands ofextremism.” This, alongside what appears to be a massive security failure and possible administration cover-up of what really happened in Benghazi, will continue to percolate in the consciousness of voters in Ohio and beyond. It’s starting to look like 1979. Reagan, let us not forget, was down or even with Carter in the days leading up to the Election. He won 51% – 41% in a landslide. Over and above the economy, images of American hostages held in Tehran and the inability of President Carter to stand up to the extremism made the decisive difference.
Ohio is a — or perhaps the — critical battleground state. Although some have suggested that Romney could win without its 18 electoral votes, the math becomes very difficult very quickly. No Republican candidate has ever won the White House without Ohio. When Mitt Romney becomes the next President of the United States, that streak will remain unbroken.