Ohio in 2012: How Obama Can Win (Again)

Leo Evans

To the Editors:

If we look back at the presidential elections going back decades, the significance of Ohio’s votes in the electoral college are among the most important. Look back four decades, and the trend goes back even further: Every candidate who has won the Presidency also won in Ohio. This could be explained in many ways: Some contend that much of the Midwest provides a fair “political barometer” for the country. Yet even if there is no causal connection behind the content that “as Ohio goes, so goes the country,” the correlation marks a significant point of interest for those who plan for the elections to come.

Obama’s victory in 2008 was not by a considerable margin — Ohio voters were split by only about 5 percent of all ballots cast. And for many reasons, replicating that result will not be an easy feat. The focus of domestic politics over the past few years has moved toward considerations of the economy and government spending. Both of these matters weigh heavily upon Ohio, especially since efforts to rebuild the state’s economic base suffered during the recession starting in 2008. Many of those seeking employment, both the unemployed and the underemployed, have yet to receive enough relief. While at the same time, the future of funding for a number of important government programs has been called into question, further straining those who need assistance now more than ever.

At the same time, both legislators and governors at the state level have undertaken efforts to require voters to provide identification at polling stations. In Ohio, House Bill 159 has accomplished this goal, which has been attacked as an effort to hinder those who seek to cast a ballot and likely to disproportionately effect low-income and younger voters. Although the effort does provide a method for preventing voter fraud, some have contended that the legislation is politically motivated. For the Obama campaign, the concentration of efforts will need to be placed on how the state has been able to reinvent itself. Obama’s work to promote a green economy and Ohio’s position as a state where efforts to manufacture the equipment necessary to produce clean energy could help to win votes in many areas, and especially near Toledo. At the same time, the campaign will need to make stronger attempts to keep voters informed about the requirements of casting a ballot on election day, not only about where to go but also what to bring. Although the percentage of registered voters is high in the state, it will be important to ensure that those same registered voters will be able to exercise the right to vote.

The reelection of Barack Obama is far from assured, and hoping to do so without winning Ohio may be a task his campaign will not be able to surmount. The situation in Ohio parallels many of the factors that shape how those seeking the Presidential office campaign. Ohio will be an important battleground state.

-Leo Evans Senior at Bennington College Oberlin resident