Don’t Sleep On Ohio

Ohio is on the brink of becoming just the third state in history to vote for the winning presidential candidate in 15 consecutive cycles

Streaks are streaks until they are broken. But if the streak is long-lasting there may be some meaning behind the numbers while they are still intact.

In the case of presidential elections, political observers have often pointed to a handful of states that have helped deliver victories to the winning presidential candidate over the last century-plus.

These presidential ‘bellwethers’ have variously included:

  • Missouri: Which backed the winning nominee in 25 of 26 cycles from 1904-2004
  • Nevada: 25 of 26 cycles from 1912-2012
  • New Mexico: 24 of 26 cycles since statehood in 1912 through 2012

With the country in the midst of an unusual run of very competitive races in which no party has won the White House for three consecutive terms since the 1980s, it has been difficult for even most purple states to sustain a notable run.

But there is one state which is not only in the midst of its longest ever streak of casting its Electoral College votes for the victorious presidential candidate but also one of the longest in U.S. history – Ohio.

If Ohio does back the winning presidential nominee again in 2020, it will become just the third state in history to do so in at least 15 consecutive elections in the modern two-party era (1828+).

Only Nevada and New Mexico (16 cycles, 1912-1972 for each) have recorded longer runs.

Ohio’s current 14-cycle streak began with the Lyndon Johnson-led Democratic landslide of 1964 and has continued through Donald Trump’s win in 2016.

Along the way, there have been several close calls, with successful presidential nominees carrying the Buckeye State by less than three points five times: Richard Nixon in 1968 (2.3 points), Jimmy Carter in 1976 (0.3 points), Bill Clinton in 1992 (1.8 points), George W. Bush in 2004 (2.1 points), and Barack Obama in 2012 (2.9 points).

Ohio is currently tied with five other states which previously notched 14-cycle runs: Idaho (1904-1956), Illinois (1920-1972), Maryland (1892-1944), Montana (1904-1956), and Pennsylvania (1828-1880).

Overall, there have been 24 instances in which a state has voted for the winning presidential nominee in 10 or more consecutive cycles.

Other than Ohio, only four of these have at least partially carried over into the 1980s or beyond:

  • Delaware (12, 1952-1996)
  • Missouri (12, 1960-2004)
  • Kentucky (11, 1964-2004)
  • Tennessee (11, 1964-2004)

After Ohio, the longest current state streak is held by Florida at six cycles (1996-2016) and then Iowa at four (2004-2016) and Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin at three each (2008-2016).

Every state has backed the winning presidential nominee at least five times in a row at some point with the exceptions of Alaska (three, 1964-1972; 1980-1988), Hawaii (two, 1960-1964; 1972-1976; 1992-1996; 2008-2012), and Washington D.C. (two, 1992-1996; 2008-2012).

Smart Politics previously documented how Ohio’s vote for the winning presidential candidate has deviated from the national vote an average of just 2.2 points since 1900, 1.3 points since 1964, and 1.2 points since 1980 – best in the nation.

Dating back to 1896, Ohio has backed the White House winner in 29 of 31 cycles excepting only 1944 (with home state Governor John Bricker as Thomas Dewey’s running mate) and 1960.

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5 Comments on "Don’t Sleep On Ohio"

  1. 1. “Don’t sleep on…” Is that some kind of quaint or indigenous expression?

    2. What are the odds the aforementioned ‘bellwether’ state ends up voting for the LOSING D presidential ticket?
    [MI, PA, and WI most recently have done so 16 years ago, IA 20 years ago (Gore-Lieberman), and FL 96 years ago (John William Davis-Charles Wayland Bryan).]

    • Dr Eric Ostermeier | July 21, 2020 at 9:34 am | Reply

      The odds would surely seem to be slim to find Ohio backing Biden and somehow having him lose the presidency – as Trump won seven other states by a closer margin than Ohio’s 8.1 points in 2016.

  2. Apparently Alabama did vote for the winning in 5 elections from 1972 to 1988.

  3. Alaska also voted three in a row in 1964, 1968, and 1972.

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