It is no coincidence that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump started the official race for the White House (beginning on Labor Day) in Ohio. Ohio has 18 electoral votes. But in my opinion it is the ultimate bellwether state in this and every presidential election.
Let’s repeat the mantra which you will hear every day until election day, Tuesday, Nov. 8: No Republican has won the presidency without carrying Ohio. And in modern political history, no Democrat has won the presidency without carrying Ohio.
Since 1964, if you’re a Democrat and win the Buckeye State, you win the presidency. If you don’t, you lose the presidency. In 1960, John F. Kennedy lost Ohio but won the presidency. He was quoted as saying with great dismay, “Great crowds. No votes.” JFK was the great exception.
Let’s go through the chronology:
LBJ won Ohio in 1964; Hubert H. Humphrey lost Ohio in 1968.
George McGovern lost Ohio in 1972; Jimmy Carter lost Ohio in 1980.
Walter Mondale lost Ohio in 1984; Michael Dukakis lost Ohio in 1988.
Bill Clinton won Ohio in 1992; Bill Clinton won Ohio in 1996.
Al Gore lost Ohio in 2000; John Kerry lost Ohio in 2004.
Barack Obama won Ohio in 2008; Barack Obama won Ohio in 2012.
You definitely get my drift. Although Ohio is seventh in population among the states, its ability to predict the presidential election outcome is due to its claim to be “America in miniature.” It is 77-percent urban and 22-percent rural; the U.S. is 80-percent urban, 19-percent rural. In terms of racial composition, it is 83-percent white and 13-percent African American; the U.S. is 74-percent white and 12-percent African American. One notable and significant difference is that Ohio is only three-percent Hispanic, while the U.S. is 16-percent Hispanic. This will hurt Clinton.
In presidential elections, the Democrats win the cities and the Republicans win the rural and less populated areas. Cleveland is in Cuyahoga County. This county has the largest percentage of African American voters. Expect to see Barak Obama campaigning in person there for Hillary Clinton.
When Democrats win in this state, it always seems to be close. Carter won by just 11,000 votes in 1976. In 2008, Obama won by a much more comfortable margin of five points, but in 2012 it narrowed to three points.
While the presidential campaign is being hotly contested, there is a big U.S. Senate race. Incumbent Republican Rob Portman is facing former Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland in 2010 lost to Republican John Kasich. You remember Kasich, he ran as the sensible moderate and won only one state (his own) in the Republican primaries. He then refused to support Trump or even set foot in the main hall during the GOP Convention — which took place in Cleveland.
On election night, my eyes will be intently focused on those Ohio returns.
*Political analyst and Georgetowner columnist Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to TheHill.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.*