The decision on whether Hillary Clinton will stay in the race for President will be answered this Tuesday. It is my opinion that a Hillary victory in Ohio will ensure that she stays in the race, at least until the Pennsylvania primary that will be held on April 22. A loss in Texas will not cause her with withdraw as long as Hillary takes Ohio, even if it by the slimmest of margins. The reasoning within the Clinton campaign will be that, in reality, Texas represents a strong red state that the GOP will probably retain in the general election while Ohio is a state that can be taken away from the GOP in November. Assuming that Hillary wins Ohio, Clinton will position herself as the candidate who can rightly claim to be the Democrat’s best chance in a state that decided the election in 2004. If she loses both Texas and Ohio, then I cannot see how her campaign could continue.
Therefore, the importance of Ohio cannot be overstated, at least for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Having studied Ohio in some detail, I offer the following analysis on the Ohio Democratic primary for your review.
These are the basic facts regarding Ohio’s Democratic primary:
1. There are 162 delegates in Ohio. Essentially 157 delegates are available to be won as a result of the primary. 5 super delegates are already pledged to either Obama or Hillary. Naturally, there are numerous quirks involved but they are not significant enough to warrant a full recitation at this time.
2. Ohio system is known as a “modified” primary. In theory, this generally means that independents can choose to vote for either a Republican or Democratic primary candidate. In reality, Ohio’s primary resembles more of an “open” primary since a voter can switch parties at their polling place by simply informing the poll worker of their desire to changes affiliation. The voter can be challenged on the switch but there does not appear to be an easy way to discredit the change.
3. The polls are open from 6:30 AM EST until 7:30 PM EST. You have to be in line by 7:30 PM EST for your vote to count.
The following are some key demographics that could have an impact in Tuesday’s primary:
1. The African-American Vote – Obviously, this is THE key for Barack Obama. There is good news for Barack in that African-Americans comprise 12% of the population of Ohio. Compare that to Wisconsin, a state that Barack won by a wide margin, where African-Americans represent 5.5% of the population. We can assume that at least 80 to 90% are Democrats. In 2004, one of the factors that helped Bush win Ohio was that he increased his percentage of support from African-Americans to 16% as compared to 9% in 2000. In terms of actual votes gained, it is estimated to be anywhere from 35,000 to 50,000. Exit-polls indicated that the main reason behind Bush’s increase was his support for an amendment to ban gay marriage. That issue is not on the table this Tuesday. Most of the African-American voters who supported Bush will likely vote for Obama on Tuesday.
2. NAFTA – The lack of honesty from both Hillary and Obama on this issue has been disgusting. Prior to last week, this issue would have greatly favored Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton’s position that she was privately against NAFTA, while her husband was working his butt off for 2 years to ensure its’ passage, does not ring true. Obama, on the other hand, got caught playing politics when it was reported in Canada that a senior Barack campaign official told a Canadian official not to worry about Obama’s current position on NAFTA and that it was only campaign rhetoric. Never mind that they are both wrong on this issue. That is a discussion for another time. The fact is that Ohio has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, although it would be a flight of fancy to suggest that they were all due to NAFTA. It is a key issue for Ohio especially in the hard hit “brass belt” section of northeastern Ohio. The economy as a whole in Ohio is not great by any means but it is not nearly as bad as Democrats want people to think. The current unemployment rate is 5.5% and per capita income has grown state wide with the notable exception of northeast Ohio.
3. Housing – The crisis actually started earlier in Ohio than in the rest of the country. As a result there are some scary activist groups that have set up shop in Ohio. Beyond bailing out every individual who made a poor decision, I am not sure what can be done to rectify the situation. As a practical matter, I don’t see Obama or Hillary gaining any advantage with this issue although the eventual nominee will have an advantage over Senator McCain in the general election.
The key regions for Tuesday’s Democratic primary are as follows:
1. Cuyahoga County – Cleveland, Ohio’s largest city is located in this county. In 2000 and 2004, Bush did better than expected with 33% of the vote. Compare that to Bob Dole’s 29% in 1996. The amount of African-American voters gained in 2004 was probably offset by the voters who were against the Iraq War, although it is hard to know for certain. I am betting on Obama garnering the African-American voters in this county by at least a 9 to 1 margin with an increased turnout. My suspicion is that this group of voters has been chronically under polled in previous primaries. This is the key county for Obama this Tuesday. A high voter turnout will ensure victory. An average or less than average turnout will give Hillary a chance at prevailing.
2. Franklin County – This is the 2nd largest county and contains the city of Columbus. This region has been trending blue for the last few election cycles. An advantage, again for Obama, is that this region has a 20% population of African-Americans. If Obama is able to bring new African-American voters to the polls, then he will defeat Hillary.
3. The ex-burbs – Turning out voters in the rural suburbs was a key strategic initiative of the Bush campaign in 2004. While Bush did not win any of the largest counties in 2004, he did win 72 out of 88 counties. The so-called ex-burbs propelled him to victory because Ohio has just enough voters in these regions to overcome his natural deficit in the larger urban areas. I have to think that the Hillary campaign is actively trying to court this voter. Thus, the whole strategy of pointing to Barack Obama’s lack of experience and who would you rather have take that 3 AM emergency call. This is an attempt by Hillary to get some crossover votes. The problem for Hillary Clinton is that there just may not be enough Democratic votes in these areas to make a difference.
Everything seems to point to an Obama victory in Ohio. However, Hillary does have the support of some key unions and her husband was tremendously popular in Ohio. Much of his popularity was due to his centrist positions, especially on social issues like welfare and don’t ask / don’t tell. Can that popularity be transferred to Hillary? Perhaps. Ms. Clinton better hope so or else her campaign is finished.
Despite the polls that consistently show Hillary Clinton with a lead, I am going to go out on a ledge and predict that Obama will prevail in Ohio by a slim margin of 3%. Please take note, before placing any bets, that I have been wrong many times during this election.