Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Can the Democrats Take Back Ohio?

The results in Ohio in 2016 were particularly ugly for the Democrats. Obama carried the state by 3 points in 2012; Hillary Clinton lost the state by 8 points. That's quite a swing. How did the Democrats get hosed so badly?

In this state the story is quite simple. It's all about white noncollege voters. In the Rustbelt troika of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the story gets muddled because, even though there were big swings among white noncollege voters in these states, they were so close that better performance among black voters could conceivably have turned these states to Clinton.

Not so in Ohio. Not even close. Democrats could completely replicate Obama's high water performance among black voters in 2012 and still lose the state handily, probably by around 5 points. There is really no way around bettering Democratic performance among white noncollege voters, where the Democrats' losing margin roughly doubled from 16 to 31 points between 2012 and 2016. 

Of course, some may argue that you could achieve the needed improvements among white voters by appealing to the other part of the white population--white college-educated voters. This is theoretically possible but very, very difficult. Start with the fact there were about twice as many white noncollege voters as white college voters in Ohio in 2016, a ratio that is likely to change only slightly in 2020. So to achieve the same effect as a given shift in the white noncollege vote, you need twice the swing among white college voters. 

Since Clinton split the white college vote evenly with Trump in the state, that means to neutralize the big white noncollege shift away from the Democrats, you would need to carry white college-educated voters in Ohio by 30 points in 2020. Not gonna happen.

Sorry folks, no way around it: if the Democrats hope to be competitive in Ohio in 2020 they must try to do the hard thing: find a way to reach hearts and minds among white noncollege voters. 

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