How President Obama won Ohio in 2008 — and whether he can do it again

October 24, 2012

The last two weeks of the presidential campaign are upon us and Ohio, again, finds itself at the center of the political universe.

President Obama stumped in the state on Tuesday alongside Vice President Joe Biden; it was the president's 17th trip to the state in 2012 alone, according to the Associated Press. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, too, has lavished the state with visits and will be in Cincinnati on Thursday.

With conventional wisdom -- the Fix and Nate Silver count as that, right? -- congealing around the idea of Ohio as the sine qua non for Romney and, increasingly, Obama, in 13 days time, we thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to look back at the 2008 race in the state to see how Obama won.

First of all, it's important to note how incredibly closely divided the vote in Ohio has been over the past few elections. In 2004, George W. Bush won the state by 118,601 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. In 2008, despite routing John McCain nationally, Obama carried the state by just 262,224 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast.

In the four presidential elections prior to 2008, the Democratic candidates got  9,060,521 total votes as compared to 8,965,170 for the Republican candidates, according to calculations made by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

An exit poll comparison between Obama's 2008 totals and Kerry's 2004 totals turns up two groups in Ohio where the current president overperformed the Massachusetts Senator.

The first and most obvious/important is among black voters.  In 2004, Kerry won 84 percent of African Americans, who made up 10 percent of the total vote in Ohio. In 2008, Obama won 97 percent of the black vote, which comprised 11 percent of the total Ohio vote.

The second is among young(ish) voters.  Among the truly young -- defined as those 18-29 years old -- Kerry won 56 percent in 2004 while Obama took 61 percent in 2008.  Among those 30-44 years old, Kerry took 47 percent to Obama's 51 percent. 

So, how is Obama measuring up among those two key groups this time around? In a CBS/Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week, Obama led Romney 50 percent to 45 percent overall in Ohio. Among black voters, Obama led 91 percent to five percent over Romney with four percent saying they had no opinion or didn't know.  Among 18-34 year old voters -- the age bracket that Quinnipiac uses to define young voters -- Obama led 59 percent to 34 percent.

Those numbers suggest that Obama is, at the moment, coming close to replicating his margins among the two key demographic groups he needs in order to win in Ohio again.  The question is whether he can maintain -- or even grow -- those margins in the face of a race that has moved nationally toward Romney of late.

Mourdock's comment on rape and pregnancy raises eyebrows: Another Republican Senate candidate has been put on the defensive after comments on rape and pregnancy.

At a debate Tuesday night in Indiana, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock said that when pregnancies result from rape, "it is something that God intended to happen.”

Democrats pounced, saying Mourdock was essentially saying that God intends for rapes to occur. Mourdock quickly issued a statement clarifying that he simply believes all life is part of God's plan.

Democrats are trying to turn Mourdock into the next Todd Akin. National Republicans suggested Tuesday night that that's not the case, and said while Mourdock was inarticulate, they expect him to recover.

But Romney, who cut an ad for Mourdock that was released this week, distanced himself from the comment.

"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

Fixbits:

A political adviser to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) predicts Romney will lose the state, even as Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) wins the state's Senate race.

The editor of the Des Moines Register says an off-the-record conversation he had with Obama should be shared with the public.

Tagg Romney apologizes to Obama for saying he wanted to "take a swing at him" during the second presidential debate.

The third-party presidential candidates debated Tuesday night.

Donald Trump says he'll reveal a bombshell piece of news about Obama on Wednesday.

Former Maine governor Angus King (I) outraised GOP Senate nominee Charlie Summers $387,000 to $325,000 in the first 17 days of October. 

The national GOP has purchased $2.3 million more in ad time in the Arizona Senate race, meaning it will be on TV through Election Day.

Must-reads:

"2012’s worst candidate? With Mark Clayton, Tennessee Democrats hit bottom." -- David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

"Candidates reveal their strategies for the home stretch" -- Philip Rucker and David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

"In Florida, Puerto Ricans’ rise gives a key swing state more swing voters" -- Joel Achenbach, Washington Post

"White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack: emails" -- Mark Hosenball, Reuters

 
 
"Obama’s vow on ‘fiscal cliff’ offers hope" -- Lori Montgomery, Washington Post
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Sean Sullivan | October 23, 2012