COLUMBUS (WCMH) – “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation” is a phrase most Ohioans are likely familiar with by now. The Buckeye State, after all, is the nation’s most accurate predictor of presidential election winners, voting with the Electoral College victor in 14 consecutive elections. (The next best state is Florida, with six).
But that phrase can actually be narrowed. Instead, try, “As rural Toledo goes, so goes the nation.”
A triad of counties outside Toledo that cover suburbs, rural areas, lakeside havens and a college town, have been reliable bellwethers going back decades.
Ottawa County is the prime example. This county, which encompasses the rural lakefront east of Toledo and includes Port Clinton and Put-in-Bay, has voted with Ohio – and with the nation – in every presidential election since 1964.
From Lyndon Johnson to Donald Trump, through landslides, close races and upsets, the 40,000 people in Ottawa County have been accurate predictors for more than half a century. Trump won the county by nearly 20 points in 2016, and Barack Obama by four points in 2012.
2016 Ohio presidential election results
But Ottawa’s voters are not the only ones in the area with a bellwether reputation. Two of Ottawa’s neighbors, Wood County to the west and Sandusky County to the south, also have electoral makeups that mirror national trends.
Wood County has probably the best cross section of the American electorate of the three. It includes Toledo suburbs like Perrysburg and Rossford, expands outward to rural areas north of Findlay and it is also home to reliably liberal Bowling Green – the site of a state university.
Trump’s margin of victory in 2016 was eight points in Wood County, matching his statewide margin.
Wood has voted for the eventual Electoral College winner in 10 straight elections, dating to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 blowout of Jimmy Carter.
Even Sandusky County, Ottawa’s southern neighbor, has voted with the eventual president in eight straight elections, dating to Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory.
Ottawa County, however, is not the nation’s top bellwether. That distinction would go to New Mexico’s Valencia County. This county outside Albuquerque has voted with the Electoral College winner since 1952, from Dwight Eisenhower to Trump.
Just six counties including Ottawa have predicted 14 straight presidential outcomes, and three are in other Rust Belt areas of the Midwest.
|Valencia County||New Mexico||1952||76,456||Suburban Albuquerque|
|Vigo County||Indiana||1956||107,386||Terre Haute|
|Ottawa County||Ohio||1964||40,769||Rural Toledo|
|Westmoreland County||Virginia||1964||17,830||Chesapeake Bay|
Polls open on Tuesday in Ohio at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Closing time is also the deadline for dropping off absentee ballots at county boards of elections. Monday (today) is the last day to postmark a ballot if returning it by mail.