In the comment thread of one of today’s earlier posts, I was asked what it’s like to be living in Ohio right now, i.e., in the thick of election season, when many people seem to be of the opinion that Ohio is likely to be a state (if not the state) that helps decide the 2012 election. I can’t speak for the entire state, but I can tell you a little bit of my experience of it.
First, note that I live in a very conservative, rural county. Darke County went 68% for McCain in 2008 and 68% for Bush in 2004, and I would be deeply surprised if it did not go at least 68% for Romney this year. In my little town of Bradford there are all sorts of signs for Republican candidates and only one or two for the Democratic candidates. There’s not even a Democrat running in my US Representative district of OH-8, which is Speaker of the House John Boehner’s territory, mostly because I think they asked themselves, why bother?
Basically, I’m used to the idea that I vote in the minority when it comes to my neighbors. They haven’t run me out of town on a rail yet, however, mostly because a) that would be rude, and b) most of my neighbors are good people who just don’t vote the same direction I do. It happens, you know?
So my day-to-day Ohio experience of the election tilts heavily towards Romney, just as it tilted heavily toward McCain in 2008 and Bush in 2004. If Ohio were Darke county, Romney could already be taking field trips to the Oval Office to take measurements for the drapes.
However, Ohio isn’t Darke County. There are 88 counties in Ohio; in 2008 Obama won 22 of them, but those 22 counties also had Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Akron in them, i.e., the heavily populated and industrialized counties. In this sense Ohio is a microcosm of the US in general, in which the rural areas, the largest by geography, are more conservative, and the urban areas, more compact but with substantially larger populations, are more liberal. Here in Ohio, it’s a pretty even split, and we have 18 electoral votes, which is why, of course, we’re being pandered to, or badgered, depending on your point of view.
Ohio’s media is being swamped by political ads of all sorts, but I personally am avoiding most of them. I don’t watch a lot of local or network television, so I don’t get carpetbombed in that way. Likewise, most of my car radio listening is satellite, which is blessedly free of commercials. I get mailings, but they don’t make it into the house; they all get deposited in the recycling bin in the garage, unread. Ironically, I’ve seen the most political ads through YouTube, which reads my ISP and serves me political ads that way; I hit the mute button and flip over to another tab until they’re done. I’m not a low-information voter, so all the political ads strike me as offensively simple. I don’t waste my time with any of them.
My phone rings a couple of times a day with robocalls, and you can tell they’re robocalls by the fact that there’s a brief delay before there’s anyone speaking; we hang up before they start speaking. I’ve been asked to poll several times and have given responses a couple of times; as I have a landline but otherwise profile as a cell phone user I suspect my answers skew the polling a tiny bit.
We had a bit of political nonsense regarding voting earlier in the election season when our Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, attempted to game the early voting procedures to disenfranchise Democratic voters and then was shocked, shocked when the Obama campaign and others called him on it. The courts eventually squashed the maneuver, as they should have, and we were reminded again that one of the least attractive aspects of the modern-day GOP is its willingness to attempt to win elections by keeping people from voting, rather than giving people a reason to vote for them.
As Ohio will likely continue to be central to the election hopes of both parties over the next two weeks, I don’t expect things to get any less noisy and aggravating around here. But on the other hand, as a believer in the voting experience and the idea that every vote does actually count — as part of the civic life of every American citizen if not strictly in the pedantic numerical sense of one’s vote being the deciding one in an election — I think it’s good to be living in a state where there’s the belief that we will be truly a factor in the future of our nation.
My belief is that in the end it will be fairly close, and that it probably is going to come down to the folks like the auto workers, who are probably pretty culturally conservative, but on the other hand got their jobs saved by Obama while Romney wrote an op-ed
suggesting that letting the automakers die was not a bad idea against the bailout (edit: I mischaracterized Romney’s position; my bad). I have my suspicions on how that’s going shake out in the voting booth, but I, like everyone else, will have to wait until election day to be sure.
That’s Ohio at the moment.