In 2016, in the days leading up to the election, Real Clear Politics had Trump leading in Ohio, but by only 2.2%. On Election Day, Trump won the state by 8.1, a 5.9 point jump from the RCP average and well outside any margin of error, destroying most Americans’ trust in polling to this day. How could a shift of that magnitude occur without some sort of warning signs? The issue is, there were several suggestions that this was coming.
In 2008, Obama won Ohio with 25 of the most populous counties in the state, securing 51.48% of the vote. McCain won the other 63 counties, with 46.94% of the vote, a 4.64% margin of victory for Obama. Even in a year that a wildly popular candidate, like Obama, was running, Obama garnered less than 52% of the vote. That is anything but a decisive victory, especially with McCain nipping at his heels with nearly 47% of the vote. The truth is, Ohio had begun a slow march toward the right since 2000.
This march to the right is only further evidenced in the 2012 election results, in which Obama again won the state, this time by a thinner margin than he did in 2008. Obama received 50.86% of the vote while Romney received 47.86% of the vote, a narrowing of the margin from 4.64% in 2008 to 2.99% in 2012. The story isn’t in the fact that Romney did better than McCain. In fact, he didn’t beat McCain’s total votes in 2012, missing that mark by 13,084. The real story is that Obama missed his 2008 performance by 105,767 votes. The only thing that can justify that, is a shift in the ideological views of the electorate as a whole. Romney’s performance wasn’t any better than McCain’s and to be fair, it wasn’t any worse either. Romney won just 4 more counties than did McCain, and by slim margins.
2016’s results further confirm this shift is occurring, as Clinton’s performance cratered. Clinton won just 43.60% of the vote, winning just 9 counties in the state. That performance was 539,224 votes and 16 counties below Obama’s 2008 victory in Ohio, and 433,457 and 12 counties short of Obama’s 2012 performance. Now had Trump had a comparable drop in votes, Clinton’s results could have been partly to blame because of a drop of voters in the state. The issue is, Trump didn’t lose voters. Trump’s 2016 take of voters was 166,514 votes higher than McCain in 2008 and a stunning 179,598 votes higher than Romney in 2012, garnering 51.65% of the vote and an absolutely bananas 11.04% shift from Obama’s margin to Trump’s own margin of victory over Clinton of 8.05%. This is a colossal seismic shift in voters.
To add insult to injury for the Democrats, Ohio has lost voters over the course of the last several years, to the tune of 263,039 voters. In other words, Democrats absorbed every single one of those lost votes AND still lost voters to Republicans. Since 2016, Ohio has lost 86,258 voters, of which, the majority were lost in counties that Clinton won in 2016. Clinton Counties have lost 1.35% of voters since Election Day 2016. Trump Counties, on the other hand, have lost only 35,293 voters, or 0.86% down from their 2016 numbers. That deficit is even greater when we apply the 2016 voter losses to the counties that Romney won in 2012, compared to counties that Obama won. Obama Counties have lost 77,895 voters since 2016, however, counties that Romney won only lost 8,363 voters. That’s a drop of 1.62% and 0.28% respectively a nearly 6 to 1 margin in favor of Romney counties. This goes to show that on top of a shift in the electorate to the right, Democrat counties are losing voters over Republican counties by at least a margin of 5 to 1.
I don’t see Ohio going blue in 2020, in fact, if voter registration data is any indicator, Trump may win Ohio by a greater margin than he did in 2016.