Sat December 1, 2012
Southwest Ohio: Red on the edges, blue in the middle
Now that the votes are officially counted, it’s time to empty the notebook on the 2012 election and turn the page. Here are some parting thoughts:
Big Blue: One of the enduring myths of American politics, if you talk to many pundits and politicos around the country, is that Cincinnati is rock-solid Republican country.
Maybe they confuse the city with the county and the region as a whole, which definitely has a red due. Or maybe it goes back to the fact that the Taft political dynasty came from the Queen City.
But the fact is, Hamilton County has gone blue for Barack Obama in the past two elections; and doesn’t show any signs of getting less blue, as many of the reliably Republican voters of the past have moved beyond its boundaries into places like West Chester, Liberty Township, and Mason.
Obama won Hamilton County in this election with 52.5 percent of the vote – that’s down slightly from the 52.98 percent he rolled up in 2008. But a win is a win.
The Inside-the-Beltway punditry factory is right if you factor in Hamilton County’s neighbors to the north and east – Butler, Warren and Clermont counties. They are solidly, indisputably red – fire engine red – and will be for the foreseeable future.
Back in 2004, many observers credited a huge Republican turnout in Butler and Warren counties with making the difference between President George W. Bush winning or losing Ohio. He won; and with Ohio, he had a second term in the White House.
Otherwise, we might now be seeing the tail end of the John Kerry administration.
But that huge turnout in Butler and Warren counties was bolstered by the fact that Bush won Hamilton County that year – with 52.5 percent of the vote to 47.1 percent for Kerry.
This year, southwest Ohio’s three heavily Republican counties, came through for Mitt Romney. He took 68.9 percent in Warren County, 66.5 percent in Clermont County, and 61.7 percent in Butler County.
But it was offset this time by a big turnout in Hamilton County – 74.8 percent this year, compared to 70.9 percent four years ago – that resulted in an Obama win.
Leading the way: Here’s something we haven’t seen before – among the candidates for Hamilton County offices - non-judicial, administrative offices – the candidate who the highest percentage of votes was the candidate for county coroner.
And that candidate was a Democrat.
Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, a neuro-radiologist who was appointed to the job in February after Democratic coroner Anant Bhati died suddenly, led the way with 57.45 percent of the vote over Republican Pete Kambelos, a doctor of internal medicine who had a lot more money to spend than did Sammarco.
We’re counting only those who had major party opposition. Democratic county commissioner Todd Portune had 76.6 percent of the vote, but his only opponent was an unknown Libertarian named Bob Frey.
It was Sammarco’s first time on the ballot, and still she ended up with a slightly better winning percentage than the old Republican veteran Joe Deters, who won re-election as county prosecutor with 57.35 percent of the vote.
Electoral College math: Everyone knows that President Obama won the popular vote in in Ohio, albeit not by landslide-type numbers’ and thus walked away with all 18 of Ohio’s electoral votes.
But what if Ohio had a different system of allocating its electoral votes?
Each state gets a total number of electoral votes equal to its number of congressional districts, plus two. Ohio has 16 congressional districts now – thus, it has 18 electoral votes to give the winner of the statewide popular vote.
Forty-seven other states are like Ohio – winner-take-all. But two states – Nebraska and Maine – divide up their electoral votes proportionately by congressional district.
In those two states, if a candidate for president wins a congressional district, he or she gets that district’s electoral vote. The candidate who wins the statewide vote gets the two extra electoral votes.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, raised the possibility of such a proportional system for Ohio at a post-election conference in Columbus a few days after the election.
There was such a hue and cry from liberal blogs and Democrats in general that Husted was forced to come back later and explain that he was not advocating such a change; he was just putting it out on the table.
What would have happened in Ohio this year, had such a system been in place?
Romney won the popular vote in 12 Ohio congressional districts. Obama won only four – large, heavily populated, very Democratic districts. And he won the statewide popular vote.
So, instead of an Obama clean sweep of Ohio’s electoral votes, the president would have gotten six to Romney’s 12.
Had such a system been in place in a number of other key battleground states, it might have been enough to change the result of the elections.
The national electoral college map favors Democrats, which is why they have won four out of the past six presidential elections.
Will such a change ever come to Ohio? Or spread from Nebraska and Maine to all corners of the country?
Don’t count on it. That’s where the Democratic Party would draw the line in the sand.