Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Expanding Electoral Map

Cook Political Report, which tends to be fairly conservative in its assessments and which started this cycle classifying both Iowa and Ohio as "likely Republican" has moved both states to "toss up". That reflects a continuing spate of good polls for Biden in these two states (not to mention the increasing likelihood that Democrat Theresa Greenfield can unseat Joni Ernst in the IA Senate race). That makes the already good electoral map for Biden even stronger. As Amy Walter' article on the new ratings notes:
"Iowa and Ohio join Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Maine's 2nd CD in Toss Up. That leaves just one state, Texas, in Lean Republican. Biden is in the enviable position of not having to win any of those states to get to 270, while Trump has to win all of them, plus another two states (22 Electoral votes) to win the Electoral College."
Speaking of Ohio, I recommend John Russo's article on the state in The American Prospect. Russo, a longtime and very astute observer of the state's politics goes the Cook Political Report one better and flat out predicts that Biden will carry the state. His reasoning:
"This year, I am predicting that Trump will lose in Ohio....The [reason] lies in changing demographics, Trump’s failures, the shifting views of some evangelicals, and problems in the Ohio Republican Party.
Even before the 2018 election, I sensed that the Trump fever was breaking, especially in the Youngstown area—what some have called Trump’s “ground zero.” Talking with Youngstown residents, especially working-class voters, I heard rumblings of disappointment and doubt. Trump fever was being doused by a wave of closings, which included a major hospital, the local newspaper, and GM’s Lordstown factory. Trump had told local residents that their economy would get stronger under his leadership, but he had failed to keep those promises or even to offer substantive help as the local economy reeled from these losses. Add the human and economic costs of the pandemic to the state’s already changing demographics and economic struggles, and it’s easy to see why Trump’s support is at risk.
Demographics might not be political destiny, but changes in Ohio’s population seem likely to help Democrats this year. Ohio has long been older, whiter, and more working-class than most other states. According to political analysts Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, in 2016, white working-class voters made up 55 percent of Ohio voters, but their numbers have since declined to 53 percent. Trump won 63 percent of white working-class votes four years ago, but many are now turning away from him, particularly women and seniors.
As the white working-class share of voters has declined, Ohio has become younger, better educated, more racially and ethnically diverse, and more liberal. According to the Ohio Voter Contact Services, there are 912,000 new registered voters since 2016. Ohio political consultant Jerry Austin believes that more than 250,000 young voters will be voting for the first time and most are likely to vote Democratic. As Amy Walter notes in the Cook Political Report, demographic changes together with the president’s low job approval rating in Ohio should make Republicans “worried” about Trump’s growing weakness in the state.
Compounding these demographic changes have been the declining socioeconomic conditions in Ohio. The Trump tax cuts did not lead to substantial job growth and rising wages. Although the national economy had strengthened modestly in recent years—until the pandemic—growth in wages and jobs has been slower in Ohio. A study issued just this week from the Century Foundation, Policy Matters Ohio, and the Groundwork Collaborative documents that while the number of manufacturing jobs has increased (by less than 1 percent) nationally during Trump’s term, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, they’ve actually declined. Poverty rates are also up in both urban and, more recently, suburban parts of the state. Some rural areas have seen “unprecedented” unemployment, even as Republicans brag that the economy is booming in Ohio."
Let's hope Russo is right! He makes a plausible case that is well worth considering.

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