COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A defining reason for Joe Biden’s victory in last week’s presidential election was his performance in suburban areas. Gains in suburbs surrounding Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee helped him flip those cities’ respective battleground states and guide him toward an Electoral College majority.
And although Biden lost decisively to President Donald Trump in Ohio, he gained ground for Democrats in major cities and their suburbs. One example: Biden flipped Montgomery County, home of Dayton, after it went for Trump in 2016.
Those gains are also evident in Central Ohio, where Biden further solidified Columbus as a Democratic stronghold and improved on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance in the suburbs of Franklin and Delaware counties.
In Delaware, Biden turned Clinton’s 16-percentage-point deficit into a loss of less than seven points. The president-elect’s 45.92% of the vote was the best performance by a Democrat in Delaware County since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
“I believe Delaware County is rising up in the number of Democratic voters that we have and people who think along more progressive lines,” said Peg Watkins, chair of the Delaware County Democratic Party.
“Our population growth is happening mainly in the southern part of the county,” Watkins said, “and the demographics on folks that are entering our county, they tend to be younger folks and people with higher incomes and good education. They’re well integrated.”
(Ohio’s election results are unofficial until each county board of elections certifies its results by Nov. 24. More than 311,000 provisional and absentee ballots are still to be counted as of Friday afternoon.)
Biden’s 9-point gain in Delaware County came via 16,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton. Trump, too, increased his vote total from four years ago, but by about 8,000.
“That’s very hopeful to me,” Watkins said, adding that an email she sent to supporters last week expressed an overall message of “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer all the time.”
Watkins pointed out areas such as Dublin, Powell and Westerville, are especially getting bluer. Each shifted more than 10 points toward Biden this year.
Record performance in Franklin County
Biden’s gains were even more pronounced in Franklin County, where suburbs and enclaves in nearly every corner of the county got bluer from 2016.
Overall, Biden picked up more than 40,000 votes in Franklin County, widening Clinton’s 2016 margin by five points. Trump gained only about 4,000 votes.
Biden’s 64.79% of the vote was the best performance ever by a Democratic presidential candidate in Franklin County, topping Barack Obama’s 60.79% in 2012. The county has voted blue since 1996.
Among the Franklin County communities whose margins shifted the most toward Biden in 2020 were a handful of townships, as well as major suburbs like Gahanna, Hilliard and Dublin.
Watkins attributes Biden’s gains to suburban voters caring about core Democratic issues like health care, education and gun safety.
“We want to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, including children,” Watkins said, “So that’s something that Moms Demand Action has grown quite a bit in Columbus, and some of those folks are Delaware County voters.”
Biden held an event with Moms Demand Action at Columbus’s Driving Park Community Center in March before the COVID-19 pandemic forced most political campaigning to go virtual.
Columbus got bluer this year, too, as Biden picked up 3.5 points in the capital city precincts within Franklin County. Those gains came via nearly 19,000 more votes than Clinton.
Some areas around Columbus got redder, however, increasing their margins for Trump in 2020. Whitehall and its more than 4,000 voters this year, for example, shifted 3.46 points toward the president. Biden still won those precincts, though, by more than 29 points.
Up in Delaware County, the small towns of Ashley and Galena increased their already Trump-favoring margins by six points and 12 points, respectively.
Although the president-elect picked up significant ground for Democrats in Ohio’s major cities and their suburbs, Watkins is not sure those gains will help state-level Democrats flip Ohio’s governorship or U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s seat in 2022.
“The Biden campaign, once the virus hit, they stayed away from Ohio and concentrated in other areas. And so, I don’t think that statewide politics will be as impacted by the Biden influence,” she said.
“Hopefully that will change as Biden takes office and is able to do some things,” Watkins added, “but we need to find people here in Ohio that people are going to get behind and elect to the governor’s office in two years.”