Decoding Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's Ohio Campaign Stops

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine greet supporters at an event in Cleveland.
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine greet supporters at an event in Cleveland. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump visited Cleveland Heights and Toledo on Wednesday.

Take a look at ideastream’s presidential campaign map to see where the candidates have gone so far.

To understand why Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton go where they go in Ohio, I spoke with Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He’s the author of The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President. Kondik says demographics might help explain why Trump has been visiting the Youngstown area.

KONDIK: “I think that Trump is hopeful that he can convert some traditional Democratic voters in the eastern part of the state over to him…One thing we’re seeing in this election is that there’s this kind of education split that’s bigger than it typically is amongst white voters. And so college-educated whites maybe are being a little bit more Democratic in this election, non-college-educated whites might be more for Trump than they’ve been for previous Republican presidential candidates.”

CASTELE: “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have paid a lot of attention to Northeast Ohio. I think most people think of this area as being a Democratic stronghold.”

KONDIK: “It is, yeah.”

CASTELE: “But of course there’s lots of Republicans in the suburbs here as well, and I wondered how important is this region to the GOP in just getting their base out to vote?”

KONDIK: “It’s very important. It’s easy to think of Cleveland and Akron and Youngstown and Lorain County as being kind of overwhelmingly Democratic, and if you could put it all together, it is. But there are also a lot of Republican votes in Northeast Ohio, and a Republican vote in Broadview Heights is just as valuable as it is in southwest Ohio, which is more Republican on paper.”

CASTELE: “And looking at the Democrats in Northeast Ohio, what do they have to do in this region to tip the state in their favor? Do all of their hopes, or most of their hopes, rest in the Cleveland, and Akron, Youngstown areas?”

KONDIK: “I think that that used to be kind of the model for Democrats in Ohio…I think a key thing for Democrats nowadays, particularly in Obama’s two elections, was not just getting a big margin out of Cuyahoga County and Summit County, but also getting a really big margin out of Columbus, Franklin County. Columbus used to be—or Franklin County, anyway, used to be a pretty Republican county. Now it probably will vote at least 60-40 for Clinton in this next election. And also Democrats should probably win Hamilton County, which is Cincinnati.”

CASTELE: “So there’s been a lot of attention paid to Donald Trump’s popularity in the Appalachian part of the state along the Ohio River. But it’s also a place that typically, I think, has a lower population than other parts of the state. I wondered, how much influence can this Appalachian region really have in who wins the state at the end of the day?”

KONDIK: “You know, there’s just not all that many votes along the Ohio River. There are some population centers in some of those counties, like Steubenville, and St. Clairsville, and Marietta and Athens…So yeah, I mean every vote that Trump can squeeze out of that region is good [for him], but he can’t also be losing traditional Republican voters in basically wealthy, educated suburbs around the three big cities. One place in Northeast Ohio that I’m really curious about Trump’s performance in is Medina County, because Medina County is very reliably Republican historically, but it’s also a growing, affluent, educated county. And I think that you might see some Republicans in Medina that, you know, maybe decide they want to vote for Gary Johnson this time, or maybe even they could bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. At the same time, specifically in the Cleveland area, I kind of wonder how Clinton will hold up in some of the sort of inner-ring west side suburbs, places like Parma and Brook Park.”

CASTELE: “At the end of the day, how important do you think campaign visits really are? Do you think they really make a difference in who shows up to vote?”

KONDIK: “I think it’s pretty hard to say. I think that a lot of times the visit itself can be an organizing tool, where the campaign will recruit volunteers to knock on doors…I also think for a lot of communities, having one of the presidential candidates just show up I think is a big deal.”

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