‘ If Ohio is in play, we’ll have already won the easier states and have 270 electoral votes…’
In February, the Soros-backed Priorities USA, one of the largest Democratic political-action committees, announced its plan to spend $100 million trying to flip four key battleground states that went for President Donald Trump, but Ohio is not one of them.
Instead, they initially plan to focus their energies on Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
To add insult to injury, Priorities USA downgraded Ohio’s long-vaunted “swing state” status to a measly “GOP Watch” state—putting it in the same column as Texas and Iowa but behind other red-leaning states like North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia, reported Cleveland.com.
Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for Priorities USA, told Cleveland.com that the group was keeping an eye on Ohio to see if an investment down the road was worth making.
Schwerin said the downgraded status did not mean Democrats had written off Ohio, only that they saw a more promising route to victory elsewhere.
A Soros-backed initiative in Florida last election helped restore voting rights to 1.6 million convicted felons—approximately 10 percent of the population—which could provide an edge for Democrats if they get them to the polls.
The 2018 midterm election also showed that Democrat-led redistricting efforts in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had helped clinch major victories, further eroding the electoral margin that secured the presidency for Donald Trump in 2016.
“What we think that means is if Ohio is in play, we’ll have already won the easier states and have 270 electoral votes,” Schwerin said. “Our investment strategy is how to get to 270 electoral votes.”
But political analyst Kyle Kondick, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said Ohio appeared to be drifting away from Democrats.
“There are individual county-level trends that are positive for Democrats,” Kondik told Cleveland.com. “There are just more for Republicans.”
Despite the 2018 re-election of Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown—who ousted current GOP Gov. Mike DeWine from the Senate in 2006—Republicans at the state level currently hold the governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature.
On Thursday, Brown, who had been mulling a 2020 challenge to Trump, announced that he would not enter the already crowded Democratic primary field.
The president may still have to fight for Ohio if its previous GOP leader, former Gov. John Kasich enters the race as an independent, but by the end of his term Kasich—now a CNN analyst—received more favorable poll numbers from Democrats than he did from his own party.
“Doesn’t it seem within the realm of possibility with as bad as it was for Democrats in 2016 in the eastern part of the state, surely it can get worse,” said Kondick.
Still, a post-mortem memorandum on the 2018 election from David Pepper, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, revealed that plans for retaking the state remained afoot.
“Any look at the actual hard-nose data of 2018 belies what they’re saying,” Pepper said. “We were closer [to] being blue in 2018 than we were in 2010, and two years after 2010 we were blue.”
Pepper pointed to his party’s successes in flipping six seats in the state legislature (and losing only one to Republicans), as well as picking up two seats on the (technically nonpartisan) Ohio Supreme Court.
While conservatives still hold five of the seven slots on the court, vulnerability there could embolden the gerrymandering efforts of Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is eyeing Ohio as one of its 12 targets for 2020.
Many of its successful “sue til blue” campaigns have focused on using activist judges within the court system to declare state legislative maps racist or otherwise unconstitutional.
The NDRC website touted the recent Ohio seat flips, as well as a May 2018 ballot initiative to reform the state’s redistricting process and make it “less partisan” (i.e. more Democrat-friendly) after the upcoming census.
“Despite these victories, Ohio remains a deeply gerrymandered swing state and is currently under trifecta control by Republicans,” said the NDRC website. “As such, Ohio will remain an NDRC target in 2020—we are targeting the state House.”