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October 25, 2012 4:45 PM Mysteries of Ohio

By Ed Kilgore

TNR’s Nate Cohn has a close-up analysis of where the presidential race stands in Ohio today, and uses as his starting point the last election where the Buckeye State was the ball-game, 2004. In doing so, he makes a point about the Bush-Kerry contest that a lot of folks missed then and since then:

It’s often overlooked just how much Obama gains over Kerry’s performance just by winning an outsized share of African Americans. According to the 2004 exit polls, Bush’s concerted efforts to appeal to African American voters—mainly on cultural issues—held Kerry to just 84 percent of the black vote. African American voters predictably swung decisively toward Obama, offering him 97 percent of the vote on Election Day with an additional point of black turnout.

Bush’s 16% among African-Americans in Ohio was a full five percent above his national showing, according to exit polls. That wasn’t enough to turn the state, but represented probably a third of Bush’s final margin (don’t mean to turn this into Bash Matt Bai Day at PA, but I just read a very long, on-the-ground piece he wrote about the Ohio results in 2004, and he didn’t mention the falloff in Kerry’s share of the black vote).

The CW among the very few analysts who focused on this particular aspect of the 2004 election is that Republicans made gains among Ohio African-Americans by shrewdly scheduling an anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative. It’s never been clear to me if that was supposed to have flipped black voters in the presidential election, or “mobilized” more conservative black voters, or “discouraged” others. You’d probably have to look at county-by-county demographic data to figure it out. Some enterprising grad student looking for a research project might want to take a look at the “faith-based organization” grants going into the Buckeye State in 2004, which were rumored to have focused disproportionately on friendly African-American ministers in key electoral states. And of course, Diebold conspiracy theorists have a ready explanation for such anomalies in Ohio.

In any event, those puzzled by Obama’s relative strength in Ohio should begin by looking at the bonanza Obama obtained in 2008 and should repeat in 2012 by vastly outperforming Kerry among African-Americans. As Cohn notes:

If Obama can maintain elevated black turnout and support, he would transform Kerry’s 118,000 vote deficit into a 92,000 vote lead without persuading a single white Bush voter.

As always, children, a vote is a vote, and all the talk about Coal Country and auto workers should not make us forget that Obama’s historic appeal to African-Americans matters in Ohio, too, if not quite as much as in Virginia or Florida.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • tonyroma on October 25, 2012 5:19 PM:

    I remain convinced that the polling models being used in the key swing states both under-represent Latinos and African-Americans and that the Obama team is well aware they likely have a greater cushion than is publicly announced for the sake of driving every potential voter to the polls. Alas, only a postmortem after the 6th will reveal the truth or fallacy of this notion.

  • tarylcabot on October 25, 2012 5:31 PM:

    looks like a typo "should repeat in 2008" should be 2012

  • Gandalf on October 25, 2012 5:45 PM:

    I think concentrating on anything in Ohio other than the auto industry bailout and opposition to it by Romney would show a level of ignorance that's so monumental that we would be in the dark ages again if you thought otherwise. Now I know that's a run on sentence but having lived in Ohio amongst Ohioans I can safely say there sure is one thing about them that stands out. They know where their breads buttered.

  • emjayay on October 25, 2012 5:47 PM:

    It has beome increasingly obvious that the Electoral College concept makes no sense 200+ years later. It is absurd that national elections boil down to two or three states. Or, rather, a small number of apparently completely uninformed voters in a few states.

    Since this isn't something that really disadvantages one party or another, (OK, Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but it could also theoretically just a well advantage Republicans but probably not, which is enough for Republicans to insist on something stupid and unrepresentative because, well, they just don't care), isn't it time to actually deal with this problem? It was time to deal with it many decades ago.

    The arguements for a national popular vote are so obvious it seems ridiculous to even bring them up.

    Also of course voter registration and voting itself are completely archaic, and many other democracies have apparently modernised that stuff as well. Meanwhile, (again, of course) Republicans are trying to unmodernise both as much as possible. Because they are such modern and reform oriented people who have learned how to do things the efficient way by being businesspeople.

  • emjayay on October 25, 2012 6:03 PM:

    I assume by "voting" in that last paragraph, you know I meant "the actual process of voting as it is done in the US". Like having to go somewhere that might change from time to time on a day you have to work, and maybe standing for hours in a long line. Particulary in some states in any precinct that tends to vote Democratic .

    Our whole voting process from registration to voting to the electoral college is entirely undemocratic.

  • jomo on October 25, 2012 7:43 PM:

    I would also add that the early voting laws in Ohio were passed as a direct result of the 2004 result when lines in Black districts resulted in hours of delays. We should probably count on a few more votes because of early voting.

  • Gorilla Meek on October 25, 2012 7:44 PM:

    Ed, the African-American vote may not matter, but the Hispanic/women vote will be decisive in Virginia, Obama will win here, as will Tim Kaine.

    And he'll do as well as he did in 2008 in the popular vote (the EC not as well, but more than sufficient), count on it!!!

  • anonymous on October 25, 2012 9:09 PM:

    Frickin' why the Romney family is able to own voting booths/machines in Ohio kicks me to the curb.

    Is immediately disqualifying for Mitt ROmney.

    Ed--can you stay on this story.

  • toto on October 26, 2012 12:53 AM:

    emjayay
    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote
    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

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  • emma on October 26, 2012 7:24 AM:

    Labeling people who question the reliability of electronic voting machines as conspiracy theorists is dismissive of the real problems that occur with them. Why should our elections not be transparent and auditable?

    Did you know that Georgia was one of the first southern states to get the machines right about the time it turned into a red state?