Where did the Republicans lose the 2012 election?  The same place they always counted on winning.  Southwest Ohio.

If you want to understand the challenges facing the Ohio Republican Party going forward you need to understand what is going on in Southwest Ohio.  And if you are a Democrat who wants to keep winning elections, you need to understand how the smart Republicans are looking at this election in order to anticipate the new strategy.

The arithmetic in Ohio elections is really pretty simple.  The Democratic Advantage in Cuyahoga County has grown to a little over about 236,000 votes.  In Franklin County, the advantage has grown to about 100,000 votes (almost double the 2004 advantage).

George Bush famously targeted the reliable Republican counties surrounding Cincinnati in the 2004 election to make up this difference.  In 2004, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties provided enough new Republican votes to help make up the difference and carry the state for Bush.

(Aside:  Many argue that the 2004 Marriage Amendment helped drive up turn-out by conservative religious voters in these areas.  This is now not as clear as many originally thought – but that is a subject for another post.)

The problem for the Republicans is that the Republican vote in these areas has not continued to grow.  Here is a quick table of recent votes for Republican Presidential Candidates from these counties.

2000 Votes 2000 % 2004 Votes 2004 % 2008 Votes 2008 % 2012 Votes 2012 %
Butler 86,587 63% 109,872 66% 105,341 61% 102,226 59%
Warren 48,318 70% 68,037 72% 71,691 67% 74,626 69%
Clermont 47,127 67% 62,949 71% 62,559 66% 62,527 67%


The vote totals in these areas jumped in the 2004 election.  Yet in the last two elections, the Republican vote totals are remarkably steady, if not slightly decreasing, both in terms of percentage and total votes for Republican presidential candidates.  A graph is always helpful.  Look:

This illustrates where the Republicans lost.  In the words of Professor Fink, “Please to explain it.”  In the 2012 election, we heard a lot about “Voter Enthusiasm.”  The idea was that conservative voters would be so eager to vote out president Obama that they would vote in record numbers.  In other words, Republican turnout would grow.

Right up to Election Day, the Romney campaign anticipated that “enthusiasm among Republican voters and the Romney ground game will lead them to victory on Election Day.”  A campaign official told ABC that “the Romney campaign has been knocking on more doors per week in Ohio than John McCain’s team did during their entire campaign” and also said that “the campaigns own internal polling showing greater ‘voter intensity,’ among Republican voters, particularly in Ohio, than there is among Democrats.”  Other Republicans relied on the voter enthusiasm strategy.  Governor John Kasich told CBS news that “If you were out here on the ground…the enthusiasm is really with Republicans.”

Our friends at Third Base Politics actually analyzed things pretty well back in September when assessing the need to increase Republican turnout (and believing that this could be done):  “this election is going to come down to turnout. We got beat badly on the ground in 2008. As of a couple of weeks ago, our side had already surpassed the number of voter contacts made during all of the 2008 season. We are doing much better . . .”  After the election, Third Base Politics said, “So what happened?  We didn’t show up.”

The problem facing the Republicans is that Third Base Politics is only half right.  They are right in that if the GOP had continued to grow the Republican vote by 20% in just these counties in the last two elections, they could have won Ohio.  They are wrong, however, because the data suggests that the Republicans DID show up.  They came out and voted in about the same numbers as the previous two Presidential elections.  The problem is that the Republicans can’t find any new voters in these areas.  The conclusion is obvious.  Even with all of that enthusiasm, they have hit a ceiling.

So when you read about the Republican problems over the coming weeks, think of Southwest Ohio.  The GOP tried to repeat what it did in 2004 and find a bunch of new voters in these reliably Republican areas.  As Joseph notes, they failed.  That is why they need to find a new strategy beyond turnout.

  • Worth mentioning, too, that Obama won Hamilton County by 20,000 votes. He has won it twice and 2008 was the first time since 1964.

  • percysowner

    One thing that I think gets overlooked is that due to the rural nature of Southwest Ohio, there is a growing Hispanic population. I have lived in Northeast Ohio. My daughter went to college in Dayton. I have visited Columbus frequently and I worked for 18 months in Butler County. Butler County is the only one of these places where I would routinely see signs in both English and Spanish at various retail establishments.

  • dmoore2222

    They’re too arrogant to admit they completely missed on the polls, the number of republican voters, the enthusiam level and, worse yet, the make up of the overall electorate. And they’ll never concede that attempts to supress the vote blew up in their faces. They’ll crawl back to their comfort zone of the 1950s and insist that everyone else is wrong and if Sandy hadn’t happened Magic Mitt would be our president. To think we could have had a president who wouldn’t understand that America looks more like Obama than him.

  • So what you’re saying is that they relied on growth to cover the election gap the same way they want to rely on it to close the revenue gap?

  • missskeptic

    Yesterday, just for fun, I listened to Neal Boortz’s head explode over the election. He said something that really shocked me – first he said that Democrats didn’t win the election, the Republicans instead lost it, because they didn’t GOTV. Then he got all pissy and stated that there were many Evangelical Christians (better known as “The Base”) who wouldn’t vote for Romney because he was a Mormon – THEN he called them idiots!! Boortz was calling the base of the Republican Party IDIOTS. I’d say that sounds like the beginning of the blame game or even the end of the Tea Party.

  • Big Brent

    Is Kasich to blame for this loss?

    From RedState.com message boards –

    revtm • an hour ago

    There were a lot of problems with the Romney campaign, the main being they targeted mostly soft R’s and left the base alone, hoping Obama would galvanize the base themselves to be moved, that didn’t happen, and the Romney campaign deserves all of that blame BUT Blame must lie also with the state parties. Ohio, Colorado, and Florida all switched
    chairman from 2010, 2 due to far right challenges, one due to scandal.
    The new chairmen brought in entirely new staffers late to the game
    (especially late in Ohio, where we are talking a post-primary change)
    and threw out staffers who were experienced at GOTV and had just come
    off very strong turnouts. These new party staffers were, from what i
    witnessed as a consulting sitting this one out in Ohio, and heard from
    friends and former co-workers in florida and colorado, were
    inexperienced, cocky, and raised little in state funding, did almost
    nothing in GOTV work and basically sat on their hands cheering on the
    Romney campaign (which was strong in parts of ohio, particularly
    columbus, but lacking in Hamilton, where we lost Ohio). The fact that
    this impact has not been admitted to by our party bothers me quite a

  • JamesIam

    Butler and Warren counties in the early 2000s were booming with new housing. New McMansion suburbs were popping up everywhere. Over the last five years, however, no major new housing developments to my knowledge.

    Warren County is about tapped out. Landlocked. Butler County still has room for new housing. But neither, as far as I can tell, has any reason to build new homes. There are empty suburbs and half-developed suburbs all over Butler County where construction stopped after the real-estate bubble burst. So you’re not likely to see much population growth in either county anytime soon. Any growth you’ll see would probably be a shift toward bigger minority populations. (The only thing growing in Warren County is the tourism industry and strip malls.)

    Having said that, Warren and Butler are still extremely conservative pockets. John Boehner is testimony to that. He has rarely been challenged, and when he has he has mopped up the competition. So be it. Their political pull is waning.

  • JamesIam

    You nailed it. The GOP is still living in a country where everyone is white, Christian and angry. Fox News reflects this, as does their hilarious confusion over Tuesday’s results. “Those People weren’t supposed to vote! This is our country!”

  • JamesIam

    I feel like minorities in Hamiton County (and all over the country, for that matter) got a taste of their political power in 2008, and they are not turning back. Obama’s legacy as a President will not only reflect what he accomplished in office, but perhaps more importantly how he forever changed the electorate in this country.

    People laugh at the “Hope” slogan, but it’s that very hope that their voices can be heard that has empowered people who never thought they had a team in this tournament. Now they do, and their team is making the Final Four every year. And you know what happens when those mid-majors make a few runs in the tournament: they start recruiting more, and they stay on the radar for years and years. Not to belabor the metaphor, but I’m thinking like a Gonzaga. No one knew who they were 15 years ago. Then they make a couple runs and now they’re ALWAYS strong. I hope our minority brethren realize this and stay strong.

  • JamesIam

    Mormons didn’t even vote for Romney. Bush got more Mormon votes than Romney did!

  • JamesIam

    Voodoo Economics, meet Voodoo Campaign Polling.

  • becca

    Don’t forget how pissed off Kasich made those Republican teachers, police, and firefighters!!!

  • Well, there’s always the bright side: Billy Cunningham is off the air.

    Here’s his cry for help:

  • nowaRINO

    They should blame Portman, he was supposed to deliver Ohio not Kasich

  • Green Iris

    on Slate, someone commented that the Southern Strategy has officially expired; that it was a 1 generation ploy stretched out for 2.

    I would add that it now has a net negative effect.

  • mrgavel

    Very good analysis. The problem we will face is that if the GOP can’t grow its own vote, it will try and make it much more difficult for Democratic leaning voters to vote. We will probably be facing an attempt to get rid of early voting and to go to photo identification. We have to be ready to referendum the upcoming GOP legislation.

  • dmoore2222

    Well. The first attempt blew up not only here in Ohio but in Pa. and other states. I don’t see any good reason to attempt this again. If anything, it motivated people who were apathetic to get out and vote if for no other reason than indignance. But you may be right judging from what looks like unwillingness of republicans to change even in the face of a stinging defeat. Stupidity die hard.

  • mrgavel

    The problem is that for Husted to back down now would be to tick off the tea party types who might very well decide to primary him in 2014. He has to do what they want in order to make sure he stays on their “right” side. Unfortunately for him, their “right side” is the “wrong side” for mainstream Ohio voters.

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