Published on October 9th, 2019 | by Guest Contributor


Ohio is Still a Swing State

As progressives plot a path to victory in Ohio in 2020, they need not look further than the location of the Democratic debate on October 15.

By Michael McGovern

With the next Democratic presidential primary debate coming to Ohio, we’re bound to see a round of stories in the press proclaiming that Ohio is no longer a swing state. But these stories take a one-dimensional view of our state and miss key data points and trends. 

Make no mistake – Ohio will be highly competitive in 2020. 

Polling continues to show President Trump with underwater approval ratings and trailing the leading Democratic contenders. A recent Emerson poll found Trump’s approval at 42% versus 51% disapproval. The same poll found him trailing Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.

President Trump can’t win reelection without Ohio, and he knows it – he and his surrogates have made numerous trips here and his campaign is spending millions of dollars already. If progressives do not contest Ohio, the Trump campaign will just have more resources to spend elsewhere. 

While we may have lost the governorship in 2018, Sen. Sherrod Brown actually won by a greater margin than in 2012 when he shared the ballot with Barack Obama. When you dig deeper into 2018’s results, there are even more signs of progress.

Democrats won two Supreme Court races for the first time in decades – and Democrats are positioned to elect a majority to the bench next year. Democrats flipped a half dozen state House seats in exactly the sort of suburban communities that will be battlegrounds in 2020. In fact, Democrats nearly matched Republicans in state House vote totals – our gains were limited by extremely gerrymandered maps. And while he may have lost the governorship, Rich Cordray still cut Hillary Clinton’s vote deficit in our state by more than half. 

While Democrats may be locked out of power at the statewide level, progressives are pushing a strong agenda at the local level. Democrats continue to control Ohio’s large cities and counties. Where we have power – and are not blocked by gerrymandering – we are pushing a strong progressive agenda. 

As progressives plot a path to victory in Ohio in 2020, they need not look further than the location of the Democratic debate on October 15.

Westerville symbolizes the Democratic opportunity in Ohio.

Like much of the country, Ohio’s highly-educated suburbs are trending sharply towards Democrats. Persuadable voters in these white-collar communities, especially women, will be the battleground in 2020. And it isn’t just white people: Ohio’s suburbs are the fastest growing communities of color. 

There is plenty of work to be done and a challenging year ahead of us. Data shows that we have to both maintain our high turnout with base Democrats that we saw last year as we sustain our momentum with suburban voters and win back some working-class voters that we’ve lost over time. 

None of this will be easy. But national Democrats would be foolish to write off our state. Here in Ohio, we’re ready to get to work.

Michael McGovern is the Communications Director for Innovation Ohio, a Statehouse advocacy hub and progressive political infrastructure group based in Columbus.

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