The Bellwether Barometer

Midterm elections in Ohio will give an indication of Trump’s nationwide popularity.

The Bellwether Barometer

On November 6, Ohio voters will head to the polls to select a new governor. The current governor, John Kasich, is prevented by term limits from running again, so the seat is open. At the state level, Republicans have dominated Ohio for a long time. Since 2011, Ohio has been a Republican “trifecta,” meaning that the GOP has controlled both chambers of the state legislature as well as the governorship. Additionally, the Ohio Republican Party currently controls one US Senate seat, 11 out of 16 Congressional seats, and all 6 executive state offices.

Unless cited otherwise, all of the information in this article was sourced from Ballotpedia.

The Bellwether State

Often cited as a “bellwether” state, Ohio is peculiarly positioned as a state representative of the nation as a whole. Although Ohio was R+8 state in 2016 (meaning Trump won by 8%), it’s still usually thought of as a swing state. Looking at past presidential elections, Republicans won in 2000, 2004, and 2016, while Democrats won in 2008 and 2012. Between 1900 and 2016, Ohio voted for the winning Presidential candidate 93.3% of the time (28 out of 30 elections); furthermore, Ohio has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 2000. However, overall Ohio has voted for the Republican 60% of the time. Another point of interest is that 9 of Ohio’s 88 counties are “pivot counties,” meaning that they voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but then flipped to Trump in 2016.

These details emphasize Ohio’s importance in this year’s midterms. If Republicans sweep the statewide elections, it is a good indicator of popularity for Trump and the GOP nationwide. Other offices Ohioans will be voting for include one US Senate seat, 16 congressional seats, 5 other executive state offices, 2 out of 7 Ohio Supreme Court seats, as well as several state legislature and municipal elections. The high number of offices up for election indicate there will likely be high turnout on election day.

The ballot for Ohio Governor will feature three tickets. The Republicans nominated Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who chose Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted as his running mate for lieutenant governor. The Democrats nominated former Obama appointee Richard Cordray, whose running mate is Beth Sutton. There is also a Green Party ticket.

Richard Cordray

Richard Cordray won the Democratic primary with 62.16% of the vote. Upon graduating from law school at the University of Chicago, he went on to clerk for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. Afterwards, he ran for US Senate in Ohio, hoping to defeat the same Mike DeWine he faces this year, but Cordray lost the Democratic primary. He found himself pitted against DeWine yet again in 2010, when he unsuccessfully defended his Attorney General seat. Most recently, Obama appointed him to be the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he served from 2012 until 2017.

His liberal tendencies are revealed by some of the endorsement he’s received this election:

– Endorsed by former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Senior Advisor to Obama Valerie Jarrett, and Senator Elizabeth Warren among others

– Endorsed by the Center for Somali American Engagement

– Endorsed by the Black Economic Alliance

– Additionally, the NRA has given him a 36% rating on gun rights.

Cordray is doing poorly in the realm of campaign finance. According to Vote Smart, he’s raised a total of $6,174, 379.21, with just over $2 million of that sum coming from out-of-state sources. Another red flag is that among his contributors, lawyers and lobbyists are one of the top-represented industries, contributing $432,588.27 to his campaign.

Mike DeWine

Mike DeWine won the Republican primary with 59.84% of the vote. DeWine is somewhat of a local legend in Ohio. He attended law school at Ohio Northern University and quickly began his extensive career in public service as a county prosecutor. He served two years in the Ohio State Senate before winning election in 1982 to represent Ohio’s 7th District in Congress, where he would serve until 1990 when he was chosen as the lieutenant governor by George Voinovich. Winning the election, he held the lieutenant governor seat until 1994. Afterwards, he ran for US Senate, where he served from 1994 until 2006. Most recently, he was elected as attorney general in 2010, an office which he currently holds.

DeWine’s conservative record is demonstrated through his list of endorsements:

– Endorsed by Rick Santorum

– Endorsed by Congressman Troy Balderson

– Endorsed by State Senate President Larry Obhof as well as many other Republican state legislators

– Endorsed by Ohio Right to Life PA

– Endorsed by Buckeye Firearms Association.

More evidence of his conservative record is revealed through his actions as Ohio attorney general. On his very first day in office he took legal action to involve Ohio in a multi-state lawsuit against Obamacare. During the 2018 campaign, he denounced sanctuary cities in Ohio. Additionally, he’s been outspoken on the opioid epidemic, which has hit Ohio as hard as any other state.

So far, DeWine is dominating his opponent in terms of fundraising. His campaign reported a whopping total of $14,047,799.33 raised, with just over $1.3 million coming from out-of-state sources.


Many projections are calling this race a toss-up, including the Cook Political Report, Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Daily Kos, and Real Clear Politics. However, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzalez predicts a slight Republican edge.

Despite the apparent toss-up, the polling numbers show a clear trend. Earlier polls suggested Cordray held the lead. One example is a Suffolk University poll conducted June 6-11, which had Cordray up with 43% and DeWine considerably behind with 36%. However, slightly newer polling paints a different picture. An NBC News/Marist poll conducted June 17-22 found DeWine way up, with a 46% lead over Cordray 42%. I was unable to find polling data more recent than that, but it appears that DeWine is pulling ahead as we approach crunch time.


Midterm elections are usually seen as a referendum on the president, which places the utmost importance on this election cycle. Specifically, Ohio will be a key state to watch due to its status as a bellwether state. Ohio has the odd tendency to function as a surprisingly accurate barometer of the nation’s political climate. Strong Republican performances in Ohio will serve as a reliable indicator of Trump’s popularity nationwide.

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