Why Ohio matters in the race to the White House

Governor John Kasich celebrates his reelection with a roaring crowd at the Republican Parties watch party in Columbus on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.

Governor John Kasich celebrates his reelection with a roaring crowd at the Republican Parties watch party in Columbus on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.

Ben Kindel

Today’s Iowa caucus signifies a beginning to the election season. Any time from now until March 15, the crowd of candidates will focus their attention on what they can do for Ohio. Doing so may be more important than you may think.

“Ohio is a swing state and it has, over the last couple of decades, been very close to predicting national elections,” said Vernon Sykes, an associate professor of political science as well as a former state legislator. “It is a very diverse state and it kind of represents the diversity in the country; it’s a microcosm of the United States.”

Ohio’s large population and 18 electoral votes makes the state an appealing target for presidential hopefuls.

Ohio’s value proved to be true in the latest election in 2012. We would most likely be voting on whether or not to re-elect Mitt Romney if he had not lost Ohio to President Obama.

According to Sykes, a candidate must be willing to put extensive resources into campaigning to win Ohio.

“Because it is a large state, it has several media markets, so it requires tens of millions of dollars to run an effective campaign both on the ground and in the airwaves,” Sykes said.

Focusing on some of the major issues that Ohioans care about is key, according to Sykes.

“Of course jobs, anything that has to do with economic development is going to get the attention of the public,” Sykes said.  “It is estimated that one out of eight jobs in Ohio is related to the auto industry, and the auto industry is on a resurgence. That can be very positive for Democratic candidates because the Obama administration has gotten credit for the auto industry.”

Another issue that can give Democratic candidates an edge in Ohio is support of Medicaid and Medicare.

“Medicaid expansion has been effective in this state as one of the states that has adapted it,” Sykes said.  

Sykes said that he believes this issue could help Ohio Gov. John Kasich gain an edge going into the general election.

 “Kasich, being a Republican conservative, promoted it against the wishes of the Republican legislature,” he said. “That can help him in the more liberal standpoint, but could possibly hurt him in a primary (by) being distinguished as a conservative (who) supported Medicare expansion.”

Sykes added that Kasich has an excellent chance of winning Ohio, but that he may struggle getting past the primary election. Generally in primaries, Sykes said, the most polarized candidates tend to succeed. In contrast, Kasich has been labeled by some as a moderate.

 “He is the heavyweight champion of politics in Ohio,” Sykes said

Ben Kindel is a politics correspondent reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].