Ohio has long been the purplest of swing states, siding with the winning candidate in all but 10 elections since the state was admitted into the union. The last time they picked the loser was in 1960, when they selected Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy, though he would go on to win two later elections anyway, so perhaps they were just ahead of the curve on that one. With their 18 electoral votes, they are the seventh largest prize — and the second largest swing state after Florida, though with neighboring Pennsylvania’s shocking flip to blue in 2016 they could slip to third. Either way, Ohio is almost a must-win for any candidate attempting to take the White House.
Up until now, we have primarily focused on smaller standalone communities are large city centers. But in states like Ohio, the real power is held in the suburbs — mostly white, mostly relatively affluent, and mostly educated. Generally speaking, suburbanites like those described have leaned conservative, thanks in large part to the party’s economic policies. Resentment toward people on welfare combined with ever-increasing taxation with little benefit to those who live in the burbs have created an environment of disdain for the larger cities they find themselves attached to.
Like the rural areas, they often feel ignored by the capital cities or the larger urban center they find themselves attached to. As urbanization has accelerated over the past few decades, the cost of living has also risen, and many in these suburbs find themselves helping to foot the bill for infrastructure and entitlement programs they themselves rarely or never see any benefit from.
Economics are only half of the story, however. Social issues and rules of decorum are much more important here than in other areas of the country. In deep red rural areas, being full of bluster and “telling it like it is” works well for President Donald Trump, in large part due to the perceived elitism of the cities. Standing on rules of formality and stilted speech are looked down upon as archaic and useless at best, disingenuous and dishonest at worst.
But conservative suburbanites see it differently. In the Midwest in general, and Ohio in particular, being soft-spoken and respectful are simply a way of life. Unlike the densely populated urban city centers like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, knowing and befriending your neighbors is considered an important way of keeping community cohesion and safety.
It’s in these suburbs where President Trump will likely be the most vulnerable. Most large urban centers are already deep blue, and the rural areas view him as not just a good president, but actually consider his style to be the most important aspect of his presidency — more important than his stances on the issues or even his penchant for dishonesty. But in the suburbs of Ohio, buyer’s’ remorse has started to set in in a major way.
The educated voters here are becoming increasingly dismayed with the lack of substance when it comes to Trump’s proposals. While they may agree on principle with the repeal of Obamacare or the reduction in taxes, they fear a trade war or a spike in oil prices as the president continues to antagonize allies like Germany and rivals like China economically and politically. Prices could go up on everything from milk and eggs to cars and gasoline and even clothing.
Most of all, however, the swing voters here seem to be chagrined by his unorthodox and crude style. While many may still pay lip service and even applaud his sticking it to an ineffective congress, they also secretly are embarrassed by the behavior or their commander-in-chief. His penchant for stream of consciousness tweets and flying off the handle or even throwing his own people under the bus flies in the face of their core values of generally being kind and respectful.
It may sound petty, but Trump could lose the Ohio suburbs simply by being kind of a dick. Nevermind the Russia scandal or immigration or the social issues or even the economic policies of the man, it’s his attitude and inability to filter the way he speaks and treats others publicly that have been the biggest turnoff for the much more demure and passively friendly suburbanites of Suburban Ohio. And if he loses the suburbs here, he loses Ohio, which, if history is any indication, means he loses the White House as well.