The following article by John Russo, visiting researcher at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, co-author of Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstown, and co-editor with Sherry Linkon of the blog Working-Class Perspectives, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:
“On the day after the Ohio primary election, President Trump tweeted about Michael DeWine’s victory in the Republican gubernatorial contest: “Congratulations to Mike DeWine on his big win in the Great State of Ohio. He will be great Governor with a heavy focus on HealthCare and Jobs. His Socialist opponent in November should not do well, a big failure in last job!” With less hyperbole (and fewer capital letters) Politico noted a “lack of enthusiasm” among Ohio Democrats, who selected Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general and then the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as their gubernatorial candidate. Statewide, 147,000 fewer Democratic voted than Republicans, and DeWine received 73,000 more votes than Cordray. DeWine also received more votes than Cordray in 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Based on these numbers, Ohio Republicans seem to be doing just fine.
But primaries aren’t always good predictors of general elections, and Democrats have several reasons to be more optimistic than the turnout numbers suggest. As David Peppers, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), has pointed out, uncompetitive races might have kept voter turnout low for his party’s primary. Even more important, while the raw numbers make the gap between Republican and Democratic turnout seem huge, as a percentage of primary votes cast, Democrats gained ground this year. In 2016, Republicans got 62.5 percent of the state’s 3.2 million primary votes. This year, they won 827,039 votes out a total of 1,524777, or just 54.2 percent. That is a significant drop, especially considering that Ohio Republicans significantly outspent Democrats in the primaries.
Does the drop reflect a return to the Democratic Party by voters who crossed over to vote Republican in 2016? Or did those swing voters just not turn out for the primary? Until we have more data, it’s hard to tell. But regardless of the reason, the gap between the parties seems to be narrowing—a shift that could help Democrats this fall.