Most local counties went for Trump. What does that say about Ohio?

Presidential ballots in Michigan and Pennsylvania were in the national spotlight Wednesday, but in Ohio there was little debate over the presidential votes: Donald Trump clearly won support of a majority of Ohio voters Tuesday.

Ohio has been known as a battleground state that voted for the national presidential winner - whether Republican or Democrat - with regularity. The majority of Ohio voters picked Trump in 2016. Unofficial returns from Tuesday, though, show while his support here grew over the past four years former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday built a small lead in the race for the White House.

“Ohio is becoming a red state. This is true in statewide offices, within the General Assembly, and in the U.S. House delegation as well,” said Mark Caleb Smith, director of Cedarville University’s Center for Political Studies. “Ohio is much closer to Indiana in terms of voting outcomes right now."

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

In Ohio Trump beat Biden, 53% to 45%, according to unofficial results on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website. In doing so Trump bettered his 2016 performance, topping 3 million votes to Biden’s 2.6 million.

“President Trump showed that 2016 was no fluke, and his strength in Ohio is real," said Christopher Devine, assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton. “We can see this even at the county level, where at this point Trump seems to have flipped two northeastern Ohio counties won by Clinton in 2016. Montgomery County may be the only Ohio county to flip from red to blue.”

Trump scored lopsided victories in eight of the nine counties in the Dayton region, with his winning percentages ranging from 81% in Darke County to nearly 59% in Greene County.

“Our region is pretty solidly Republican outside of Montgomery County, which went for Trump in 2016, but not in 2020. We are a red part of a very red state at the moment," Smith said.

Biden narrowly won Montgomery County with 50.3% to Trump’s 48.2%. Montgomery County had the second lowest turnout in the region at 70.9%. Clark County turnout was slightly lower at 70.7%

Warren County topped the list, with turnout of 79.4%.

Credit: Mark Freistedt

Credit: Mark Freistedt

“We saw that Biden did improve on some of Clinton’s numbers in the suburbs and cities — so he accomplished half of his goal," said Lee Hannah, associate professor of political science at Wright State University. “The other half was to move more voters in rural counties back to the Democrats, and that is where they came up really short.”

Hannah said Trump’s margins “look just as good in these rural counties and the turnout is modestly higher. Which essentially leads to a replay of 2016 in Ohio.”

Trump won Montgomery County by less than one percentage point in 2016, when voter turnout in the county was 70.3 percent.

“So while we can see some changes on the map in Ohio, overall it’s a picture of stability. This does seem to mark a departure from previous elections, when Ohio was a top battleground, or electorally competitive, state," Devine said. "Nor does it seem to be much of a bellwether anymore — meaning a state that very closely approximates national election results.”

Ohio and local county votes for president  
JurisdictionJoe BidenDonald Trump
Butler County37.2%61.4%
Champaign County25.6%72.9%
Clark County37.6%60.8%
Darke County17.5%81.0%
Greene County39.3%58.8%
Miami County27.1%71.3%
Montgomery County50.3%48.2%
Preble County20.7%77.9%
Warren County34.1%64.4%
Note: These reflect 100 percent of precincts reporting all ballots received or cast by the close of polls on Nov. 3. Those tallies are expected to change after provisional and late-arriving valid absentee ballots are counted and certified by Nov. 18.  
Source: Ohio Secretary of State 

If Trump wins re-election, Devine said it is likely he will do it while again losing the popular vote as he did in his matchup with Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“So while I still think it’s a bad idea to write off Ohio as a solidly red state, I think it’s safe to say that Ohio is trending more Republican than the nation generally,” Devine said.

Statewide 5.8 million — 72 percent of Ohio’s 8.07 million registered voters — cast ballots. That is the highest presidential election turnout since 1992.

The 2020 totals are likely to go up by the time official results are certified by Nov. 18. The state’s results include all votes cast or received by the time the polls closed on Nov. 3, but counties still need to verify and count valid provisional and late-arriving absentee ballots.

Results are never final on election night. And the COVID-19 pandemic led to huge increases in the number of absentee ballots cast across the nation. While Ohio law allows boards of election to process, but not tally, those ballots in advance of Election Day, states like Pennsylvania are not allowed to prepare their mail-in ballots for counting until after polls close. Those states then have huge numbers of paper ballots to process, which leads to their final results being delayed.

Tuesday night Biden gave a speech in Delaware, saying, “We believe we are on track to win this election."

“We’re going to have to be patient until the hard work of tallying votes is finished," Biden said. "And it ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”

Wednesday President Trump reiterated his claims that the vote counting should cease and accusing Democrats of trying to steal the election.

Smith said Trump’s remarks were out of character for an American president.

“They always caution patience, and in letting the process play out in similar conditions. To claim he had already won and the election was in the process of being stolen was simply not true," Smith said. "Votes are still being counted. No one has won or lost, and, to my knowledge, there is no significant evidence of foul play.”

Follow Lynn Hulsey on Twitter and Facebook

About the Author