Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ohio: The Heart of it All

As many of you know, I love Ohio. Having lived in Columbus from 2002-2003, I got to enjoy life in the biggest small town that allowed for a lot of walking, and plenty of urban exploring.

I also appreciate Ohio’s unique political makeup. I can only think of two states (Missouri and Virginia) that have the same diverse political cultures that make one state in reality five different states. While Ohio’s sharp political divisions are not as likely to be displayed in the Democratic Primary on March 4, the state will still be a challenge for any campaign to gain victory. Just ask John Kerry.

Since people always ask me who going to win state X or state Y, I figured it might be good to offer an analysis of Ohio’s upcoming Democratic Primary. Full disclosure note now: I’m a Barak Obama supporter, so take this analysis as you will, although I have tried to be open minded to a Hillary Clinton victory in this analysis, and there are areas of the state where she will do very well on March 4.

Let’s begin!

The Order of Battle

Both campaigns want this state. For Obama, a victory here can put to rest Clinton’s argument that he can not win any big states, and also provide continual momentum for his campaign. From what little I know, it sounds like Vermont and Rhode Island will also likely go for Obama on March 4, leaving Texas as the final disputed prize on this day. If Obama wins Ohio, he will likely win the nomination, and laid the groundwork for an effective Ohio Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign for the fall.

A victory in Ohio helps keep Clinton in the primary delegate hunt. It is likely the Clinton will lose all three primaries today, and the primaries a week later in Hawaii and Wisconsin are not looking very promising either. Hence, a victory in Ohio could provide a big uplift for her campaign, and give her momentum for the elections later in March and April. Finally, a victory in Ohio could help sooth worried campaign donors and committed super delegates.

Delegate Breakdown

Ohio brings 161 delegates to the Democratic Convention in Denver. Of these, 20 are super delegates, whom current favor Clinton by a 2-0 margin (Ted Strickland and Representative Stephanie Jones). In the end of January the Buckeye State Blog helpfully calculated that Clinton has 6 super delegates leaning her way, while Obama has 3 moving towards his camp, giving a Clinton a margin of 8 to 3, with 10 delegates (wisely) remaining undecided.

The remaining 141 delegates are allocated into two groups. 92 delegates are split among Ohio’s 18 Congressional Districts and are awarded proportionally. A list of the districts with the number of delegates awarded to each is provided below. A helpful map shows readers why some congressional districts get more delegates than others; it largely depends on the Democratic vote from each district (for detailed district maps see this helpful site). Thus, districts 4 and 5, which are strongly Republican, get fewer delegates than districts 11 and 17, which are Democratic strongholds.

Each campaign will pay special attention to districts with odd numbers of delegates, as it is easier to gain an extra delegate. For exam, for Clinton to win three delegates in the First Congressional District (a district that has four delegates), she would need to have at least 62.5% of the total vote. In contrast, for Obama to win 3 of 5 delegates for the Third Congressional District, he would simply need a majority. There are six Congressional Districts that have odd numbers of delegates (Districts 3, 6, 12, 16, 17, and 18), and expect the campaigns to push hard for winning the majority of the vote to get the extra delegate. That said, expect Obama to push especially hard to win the 11th Congressional District. Although it has an even number of delegates (8), this is an African American majority district that could provide large margins for him. To get 5 of 8 delegates, Obama would need to get 56.2% of the vote; something that is entirely doable. The remaining 49 delegates are given based on the statewide popular vote total. The list below shows the number of delegates that correspond to a popular vote percentage.

21 delegates for 42.8%
22 delegates for 44.8%
23 delegates for 46.9%
24 delegates for 48.9%
25 delegates for 51.0%
26 delegates for 53.0%
27 delegates for 55.1%
28 delegates for 57.1%
29 delegates for 59.1%

As you can see, this will be a closely fought race. Let’s see how things breakdown.

By District (92 total delegates)

CD 1 – 4 (Cincinnati). This is a district that Obama will do well in, given that it includes much of Cincinnati and some outlying suburbs. 27.5% of this swing district’s population is African-American, and this figure will only be greater for the Democratic Primary on March 4. However, nothing suggests that Obama is going to get over 62.5% of the vote here, hence a 2-2 split is in order.

CD 2 – 4 (Cincinnati suburbs and rural Ohio River counties). Represented by Mean Jean Schmidt, this district has a low African American population, although almost 40% of district residents have a BA or a graduate degree. Hillary should win this district, but not by a large margin, resulting in another 2-2 split.

CD 3 – 5 (Clinton, Highland, and Montgomery Counties, with a portion of Warren County. Includes the city of Dayton). This district is one that will likely go for Obama, as Dayton has a sizable African-American population, and also includes a sizeable number of college students. Obama wins 3-2.

CD 4 – 4 (central rural Ohio). This very Republican district will likely provide an even split between the two candidates, although Hillary is likely to win a small majority. 2-2 split.

CD 5 – 4 (northwest rural Ohio). This district, although rural and Republican, has a strong Democratic base in Bowling Green, home of the Bowling Green State University. Obama will win this district, although it is unlikely that he’ll be able to pull out an extra delegate. 2-2 split.

CD 6 – 5 (rural Ohio River counties). This district was Ted Strickland’s Congressional base, and if there is any place where the popular governor can use his clout, this is the place. The district is filled with lower-income white women that Hillary desperately needs to turn out to win Ohio. If Hillary cannot win this district, she is not having a great night. For now I am calling this 3-2 for Hillary.

CD 7 – 4 (southern rural Ohio counties and a portion of Dayton). This district is rural, but also includes a small urban section. While I would not be surprised to see Hillary win this district, it will be another 2-2 split.

CD 8 – 4 (southwestern rural Ohio). Ohio has a number of rural districts that would be considered strong Republican seats in a general election. However, in this Democratic Primary, it remains to be seen how the voters will turn out. Obama has done an excellent job attracting rural voters in caucus states, and rural Ohio is much closer to the many states that Obama won on February 5 than anything that Hillary has done well in. The results in Wisconsin’s rural districts on February 19 might be some indication of how Ohio’s will move. Regardless, this district will be a 2-2 split, with Obama pulling a small majority.

CD 9 – 6 (Toledo & suburbs, rural Lake Eric counties). If Hillary has any district besides CD-6 that she must win, this is a likely candidate. This district has a working-class makeup that has a tiny number of college students. Toledo has a sizable number of African American voters, which might make it hard for Clinton to get over 58% of the vote. If Obama comes close to getting 58% in this district on March 4, expect a Hillary withdrawal speech within the next week. 3-3 split.

CD 10 – 6 (Cleveland suburbs). This district, represented by the Kerber Elf (Dennis Kucinich) is another chance for Hillary to pull a win in the suburbs of Cleveland. However, Obama could likewise pull out a victory. Regardless, it may be hard for either candidate to get 58% of the vote. 3-3 split

CD 11 – 8 (Cleveland and eastern suburbs). This African American majority district (56%) should be the foundation upon which Obama builds a victory in Ohio. Clinton may be able to limit Obama to getting a 5-3 lead here if she is able to push economic issues, especially mortgage foreclosure problems dominating metro Cleveland. If it is a good night for Obama, he’s pull out a 6-2 delegate win. Chances are he’ll get a 5-3 win, and add to his popular vote total.

CD 12 – 5 (northeast Columbus, exburban Delaware and Licking counties). Franklin County provides the overwhelming majority of Democratic votes here, and it is where Mike Coleman’s endorsement and GOTV efforts could be helpful for an Obama victory and a 3-2 delegate majority.

CD 13 – 6 (Cleveland and Akron suburbs). Filled with college students and voters with economic concerns. Expect an Obama and Clinton split 3-3.

CD 14 – 6 (northeast Ohio). Old Western Reserve portion of Ohio, with plenty of working-class Democrats. However, it is unlikely for Hillary to get 58% of the vote here. Another 3-3 split.

CD 15 – 4 (Columbus and suburbs). This district has a large number of Ohio State University students, and is slowly becoming more Democratic. However, it is unlikely that either candidate will get 62% of the vote. 2-2 split.

CD 16 – 5 (Canton and rural counties). This district should be one that Hillary does well in. Whether her ground game is up to the challenge is another question. 3-2 Clinton.

CD 17 – 7 (Youngstown and Warren). A struggling working-class district that should be a place where Clinton should be able to gain a victory, although her support will not likely surpass 64% for an additional delegate. A 4-3 Clinton majority.

CD 18 – 5 (rural south-central district). This rural district is dotted with small towns and would be expected to go for Clinton. However this district is dominated by Athens County, home of Ohio University, which will likely provide a dominating Obama majority. 3-2 majority for Obama.

District delegate totals: 47 Obama, 45 Clinton

Statewide total:

With a close delegate total, you can expect the popular vote to likewise be neck and neck. Obama needs to roll up large popular vote majorities in the state’s three majority cities (Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland) that have sizable African American populations, and also pull out large majorities in college towns such as Bowling Green, Athens, and Kent. Clinton needs to get a large number of votes in Toledo, Cleveland suburbs, and in the Ohio River counties that Ted Strickland will be pushing hard to win for her. I expect that Obama’s momentum from earlier in February will help increase his vote totals in Ohio. In most states during this primary season, Obama has done much better when he is able to increase his voter recognition numbers, and it would not be surprising if Ohio followed this pattern. Clinton will be under intense pressure to get a big win here, especially if she loses primaries on February 12 and 19.

In the end, I predict an Obama victory with 50.5% of the total vote, while Clinton gets 47%, and 2.5% vote for other candidates. Obama will thus get 25 delegates, while Clinton gets 24. A narrow victory for Obama, and intense pressure for Clinton to drop out from the race should be the storyline on the night of March 4.

Total pledge delegates awarded on March 4:

Obama 72

Clinton 69


thehbs said...

I don't think you've thought through this enough, Peter! Needless to say, the last few primaries have put a smile on my face.

Katie said...

John and Katie Douglass- Registered Ohio voters! We will be in Spain during the primaries, however will be in the Dayton district (Kettering), where is the online website to vote (although I think I am currently registered as an independent!) Can I still vote?? (PS OF course I will be voting for Obama!)

David said...

Hey Pete, what effect would a Clinton/Obama Texas/Ohio split have on the race? Would it still be a death blow for Billary?

traci said...

thanks peter!! this is helpful stuff. if i reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally want obama to win, will that help?