Maxwell Carter is a freshman biomedical engineering/political science major and Bodenhamer Fellow at the University of Arkansas. An avid follower of politics, Carter interned with the Democratic Party of Arkansas in the summer of 2015 and founded a Young Democrats chapter at his high school.
In line with trends of recent elections, Ohio has been one of the most contested and least predictable states in this election cycle. Since June, Clinton and Trump have exchanged the lead in Ohio four times. For an already-behind Trump, a win in Ohio is vital to reach 270. For Clinton, who already has the electoral map stacked in her favor, winning Ohio’s 18 votes would nearly guarantee a national victory. Over the past week, campaign spending from both candidates in Ohio totaled the sixth highest amount of any state. Though Clinton has a slight lead in current polls, Ohio’s high population of non-college educated whites, Trump’s strongest base, continues to keep the race in Ohio one to watch.
Throughout the past several decades, Ohio has remained a toss-up in presidential elections. The Buckeye State voted Democrat in 2012 and 2008, Republican in 2004 and 2000, and Democrat in 1996 and 1992. The state’s population remains nearly evenly split between Democrats in the east and in cities like Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo, and Republicans in the central and western, more rural parts of the state. The demographics of Ohio tend to lean in Trump’s favor. Non-college educated whites, his strongest subgroup of voters, make up a relatively high percent of the state’s voters. Only 26.6 percent of the state’s voting electorate has a bachelor’s degree or above, though the number of white voters (83 percent of the total Ohioan population) in this category is somewhat higher.
Ohio’s demographics seem as though they should be the perfect combination for a Trump victory in the state; yet he remains unable to seize and maintain the lead from Clinton. In the wake of a series of scandals surrounding Trump making comments suggestive of sexually predatory behavior, Clinton now holds a lead in the state. These scandals, in addition to two debate performances that failed to reach out beyond Trump’s base, may prove to be the final hit Clinton needs to gain and maintain the lead in Ohio. Before the release of the tapes, the Ohio polls were relatively tight, favoring Trump. The majority of September polls favored Trump by several points, or Clinton by just one or two. A Quinnipiac poll on September 27th showed Trump ahead by five points; a Monmouth poll showed Clinton leading by just two in the first week of October.
Following the release of the tapes and the second debate, Trump’s lead in Ohio has slipped, with Clinton leading in nearly every poll of the past week. As Trump’s scandals continue to lead news cycles, particularly as women continue to come forward claiming to have been victims of Trump’s behavior, it is likely that Clinton’s lead will only grow.
Prediction: As the election enters its final month the race in Ohio seems to be rapidly slipping out of Trump’s grasp. Unless trends change, Ohio is Hillary’s to lose.