Ohio may be losing its bellwether status

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Ohio has long been considered a swing state, but Republicans have dominated the past several years (WSYX/WTTE)

The 2018 midterm elections were a mixed bag for Democrats and Republicans nationally. Democrats regained control of the US House while Republicans widened their majority in the Senate. In Ohio, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown cruised to re-election but Republicans swept the statewide executive offices for the third time in a row.

Ohio has long been considered the quintessential swing state but Republicans have dominated elections up and down the ballot for nearly a decade.

"Ohio right now is I believe in a dark time and I hate to say that," former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland said Tuesday evening. "I think at least for the time being lost our bellwether status."

Democrats felt they fielded their best slate of candidates in years and their campaigns were well-funded but they still fell short.

"There were no incumbents running, you had good Democrat candidates with a lot of money which they've never had in the past," said Republican strategist Bob Clegg. "Politics 101 would dictate that they would be successful."

Clegg said the voting numbers in 2018 closely resembled the numbers in 2016 when President Trump won Ohio handily. He said there aren't enough Democratic votes in big cities to outweigh all the rural and blue collar votes shifting to Republicans.

"You just have a voter base that is so Republican that even if you have good Democrat candidates with money, they can't win, "Clegg said. "We've been such a swing state for so many years, I think it's tough for people to put us in that red category, but after last night I think we have to be put in that category."

Columbus State Political Science Professor Jonathan Kreger said Ohio's shift to the right is partly because of the state's population. Ohio's electorate has been getting older and isn't as diverse as other states. He said those demographic trends tend to favor Republicans.

"Ohio is definitely been trending into the Republican column," Kreger said. "We've seen that the last few election cycles. We're less of a bellwether state and more of a Republican state. It was a little surprising to see some of the results because going in some of the polling suggested that Democrats would be very competitive and actually win some of the statewide races and that didn't end up being the case."

The changing nature of Ohio's politics could affect the amount of attention the Buckeye State gets during the 2020 presidential campaign. Both Democrats and Republicans said Wednesday they expect other states to get more attention since Ohio may not be as competitive as it used to be.