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The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President Paperback – June 21, 2016
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—Thomas Suddes, political columnist, Northeast Ohio Media Group/Cleveland Plain Dealer
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Kondik explains the concept of a bellwether state, compares Ohio to other possible bellwethers, and shows why Ohio is the most reliable such state. Early settlement patterns ensured that once it achieved statehood, Ohio would be a melting pot and mixture of cultures from earlier settled regions as well as economically diverse. The author describes the regional subcultures that settled the state and how they contributed to Ohio's political mix and eventual swing state status.
The author walks the reader through the history of presidential elections in Ohio from McKinley-Bryan in 1896 through Obama-Romney in 2012, noting that the forces that affected the country at large in the last 120 years also affected Ohio in the same ways, helping to ensure that the state remained a bellwether even though different areas of the state have shifted party allegiances across the generations. Kondik takes the reader through the urban, suburban, and rural areas of Ohio and discusses their voting patterns. Perhaps the most remarkable fact that Kondik adduces that shows the robustness of Ohio as a bellwether is that none of the state's 88 individual counties tracks national voting patterns as well as the state does as a whole.
Kondik notes that Ohio has had only two misfires in presidential elections since the time of McKinley, those of 1944 and 1960. But the author, if anything, undersells Ohio's historical status as a bellwether. In 2000, had the television networks not issued their bogus Florida-for-Gore projections after the polls had closed in Ohio but before they had closed in most of the country (including the Florida panhandle), Ohio very likely would have voted with both the electoral vote and popular vote winner that year.
And as for 1960, had the well-documented shenanigans in Illinois and Texas not taken place for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket (and if one allocates realistically the popular votes for John Kennedy and Harry Byrd in Alabama), Ohio would have tracked with both the popular and electoral vote winner that year, too. That leaves 1944, when Buckeyes preferred Tom Dewey to Franklin Roosevelt by less than half a percentage point—with an Ohioan in the vice-presidential slot on the losing GOP ticket.
The author closes by questioning whether Ohio will remain a bellwether in the future. It certainly will be hard-fought in the current campaign. Ohio will be more important in 2016, if that is possible, than it has been even in recent elections—the state has many of the types of Left-leaning working-class areas that Mitt Romney needed to carry four years ago but didn't, but that shocked the world last week in the Brexit referendum. The Clinton and Trump campaigns will be fighting to the death for Ohio's 18 electoral votes, and the winner of the state will once again likely be taking the oath of office on the west side of the Capitol next January 20.
This book contains great tables and maps, and includes a welcome (and sadly necessary) refutation of the canard that the state was "stolen" in the cliffhanger election of 2004. "The Bellwether" is a superb look at the state that is currently and will likely be for the foreseeable future the premier electoral battleground in the country in presidential elections. Canny followers of the presidential race will be keeping their attention on two figures above all else throughout this summer and fall—the average of the polls for the country at large...and the average of the polls for Ohio.