CLEVELAND — Ten weeks from now, Ohioans will be heading to the polls to vote in the November General Election. While voters in all 88 counties will be the ones to elect the next U.S. Senator, Governor and other positions, there are a handful of counties where voters carry extra sway — they are called pivot counties.
Heading into the 2020 election, there were only 206 counties in the United States where voters had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016; nine of them were here in Ohio. After the 2020 election only one, Montgomery, which went for Joe Biden, stood as a national pivot county, but the other eight stood as accurate predictors of who would carry the state. They all can be found in Northern Ohio.
Wood, Ottawa, Sandusky and Erie are four to the west of Cleveland, and Ashtabula, Trumbull, Portage and Stark are the other four to the east. If you’re running for statewide office, this is where you’ll want to see if your message is resonating between now and November.
Of particular note was Trumbull County, which is home to the old GM Lordstown Assembly plant. In 2016, Donald Trump became the first non-incumbent Republican to win Trumbull County since Herbert Hoover in 1928. The GOP shift in union households was key, and despite the loss of the Lordstown plant, Trump not only carried the county again in 2020 but his margin of victory grew.
But do these counties offer any insight in this year’s election? Possibly. As we look at the 2018 midterms, both had races for governor and U.S. Senate won by two members of two different parties in Republican Governor Mike DeWine and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
Four years ago, DeWine carried seven of those eight counties while Brown managed to carry six of the eight, showing the willingness of voters to pivot in a single election and split their ticket.
Stark and Sandusky Counties went full Republican in voting for DeWine and Jim Renacci over Brown while Trumbull went full Democrat going with Brown and Richard Cordray for governor.
Interesting to note another Northeast Ohio county, Lorain County, just missed being part of this “pivot” list. Lorain voted for Obama in ’08 and ’12 and went with Trump in ’20 and early election night results in 2016 had the county in Trump’s column as well, but as the final tally of all votes cast was certified, Hillary Clinton won the county by just 131 votes out of 133,767 cast. That’s roughly a .001% margin.
Over the next few weeks, we will be talking with voters in these counties about the issues that matter most, just as we did in 2020 when voters we spoke to were free with their opinions, or like Alan Morse of Ottawa County, free with a little advice.
“We kind of have a rule here we don’t talk politics, we don’t talk religion and we don’t talk relationships and that’s the way we everybody calm in this place," he said.