Yes, Obama Can Win Without Ohio

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 8 2011 10:04 AM

Yes, Obama Can Win Without Ohio

Bill Galston keeps heading back to the same sensational-yet-uninteresting column topic: Why Barack Obama can't be re-elected if he loses Ohio. His basic argument, that Obama needs to win back support with the white working class, is uncontroversial, but he gooses it with stuff like this.

My argument rests on the fact that Ohio is close to being a microcosm of the country—closer than any other pivotal state. As such, winning Ohio is a statistical " tipping-point " for any presidential election: If a candidate can carry Ohio, he will have appealed to a large enough slice of the national electorate to have won the states that tilt even further in his preferred direction, and he is odds-on to win the race. Likewise, a candidate who loses Ohio will almost certainly lose nationally.

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Yeah, this isn't actually how elections work. Ohio lost two congressional districts -- i.e., two electoral votes -- in the Census. Colorado, Nevada and Washington gained seats. Ohio is 80 percent white and 3 percent Hispanic; the country is 75 percent white and 16 percent Hispanic. The fact is that Obama could carve out a narrow electoral win by winning the states Al Gore won. Let's spot the GOP nominee Iowa, in case voters there are still in an anti-Democrat mood, but let Obama grab Hispanic-heavy Nevada and Colorado. He wins with Virginia, with its increasingly blue D.C. suburbs and large black electorate. He can also win by grabbing Iowa and New Hampshire, which has been trending blue despite a huge red shift in 2010.


David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.