Swing State No More? Trump Won Ohio By An Even Higher Margin Than In 2016

Nov 4, 2020

With more than 5.7 million votes cast, and counting, Donald Trump pulled off a more than 8-point victory over Joe Biden in Ohio. Although the presidential race has yet to be decided nationally, the night saw Republicans pull off a number of victories across the state.

The results are still unofficial in Ohio. As of Wednesday afternoon, Trump has a lead of more than 470,000 votes in the state, with just over 311,000 outstanding absentee and provisional ballots. No Republican has reached the White House without winning Ohio.

Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken took the stage just after midnight on election night to declare a win for Trump.

"That means the president's America First policies that resonates with Ohioans," Timken said. "I feel like we're gonna have a good night. It's gonna be close in the rest in the country, but I continue to believe that Americans and Ohioans believe in the American dream."

The results watch party for the Ohio Republicans was an unusual event compared to past election nights. Instead of supporters gathering in a large ballroom, different Republican campaigns were set up in their own private rooms at a Westerville hotel with a live stream of the speakers once they took the stage.

Among those speaker was Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who says Trump once again appealed to Ohioans with his economic message.

"I'm confident that we will win Ohio," Portman said. "And I think the reason Republicans will win Ohio is very simple: The economic message really works here. And if you look at what happened in the economy for Ohio and for the country prior to the COVID crisis, you know, we were hitting on all cylinders."

Trump's success in Ohio was a continuation of what he saw in 2016, with the historically Democratic counties of Mahoning and Lorain flipping to Trump. 

Republican strategist Mark Weaver says the election night results are a strong sign that Ohio is firmly a "red" state, a claim he made on election night four years ago. Weaver says people who used to align with Democrats are feeling forgotten by the party. 

"The big surprise is that pieces of eastern Ohio that used to be Democrat, reliably so, are now turning Republican, Mahoning County perhaps being the most prominent of those," Weaver said.

The night also went well for Republican legislative leaders. The Republican caucuses picked up seats in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, expanding the existing supermajority in the state. But the GOP did split on the Ohio Supreme Court, with Justice Judi French losing and Justice Sharon Kennedy keeping her seat on the bench.

There was no ballroom, no party with the Ohio Democratic Party. Because of COVID-19, the party offered up a webinar with chair David Pepper. But there wasn’t much for Democrats to cheer about, anyway, after losing the presidential race and failing to flip any U.S. House seat.

Pepper says they did the best they could with the resources they had.

“We worked very hard, frankly, with less resources than other states," Pepper said. "We’re very proud of that. And we are proud to have fought this battle to where it is tonight. We were very efficient. Our field team, we couldn’t have been more scrappy dealing with a very big state working very hard every day. And, unlike the controversy of 16, we certainly did not divert resources from other critical swing states."

Pepper sees their flip of one Ohio Supreme Court seat as a win. Democrats now have three seats on the state's highest court for the first time since 1993.

“Even one pickup is a major win, because Chief Justice O’Connor, for those of us in Ohio who know, she’s been a less partisan, more statesmanlike, figure," Pepper said.

In the end, all 12 Republican and four Democrats in Ohio’s Congressional delegation were able to hang on to their seats. Pepper says there’s a reason for that.

“Let’s remember all 12 of these districts were badly gerrymandered. They were drawn to avoid any competition," Pepper said.

The Congressional maps will be redrawn next year under new rules designed to make the process less partisan. But with these latest victories, Republicans will still have an advantage in that map-drawing process.