RENACCI: Ohio Is Up For Grabs In 2020

(Photo by Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Former Rep. Jim Renacci Ohio’s Future Foundation
Font Size:

The 2020 presidential election campaigns are in full-gear, and many analysts have all but written off Ohio for Democrats. Famed election predictors Charlie Cooke, Stuart Rothenberg, and Larry Sabato all say President Trump is likely to win Ohio out of the gate. A Washington Post op-ed suggested that after the 2018 election, it was clear that Ohio was a red state.

While President Trump has a lot of advantages to winning the Buckeye State in 2020, these political pundits have written off Ohio’s political future prematurely. I like the saying that Ohio is a “green” state. Politicians need to spend money on a ground game, advertisements, and a get-out-the-vote effort to win the state, regardless of the political party.

In the 2018 election, the winners of both the governor and senate election were candidates who had the financial resources to invest in Ohio. Sen. Sherrod Brown outspent my campaign by a margin of six-to-one. Similarly, Gov. Mike DeWine spent more money than his two main Republican opponents combined in the primary and then outspent his Democratic opponent in the general. Even in congressional elections, Republican groups spent millions for Rep. Troy Balderson to squeak out a victory.

The only recent statewide candidate to beat a candidate where he was outspent was President Trump. His message of “making America great again” had broad appeal to a majority of voters.

If Republicans want to win Ohio in 2020, they’re going to have to invest in maintaining the gains President Trump made in rural areas, especially among people who don’t typically vote for Republicans. He won 12 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of union households according to exit polls by focusing on making better trade deals and increasing wages for the working-class. The GOP also needs to focus on stopping their erosion in wealthy suburbs and counties like Hamilton, Athens, Trumbull, Summit, Lucas, and Lorain. Likewise, if Democrats want to win, they’re going to have to not only win over suburban voters who may not like President Trump but also make up ground with rural voters that heavily supported President Trump three years ago.

That doesn’t mean that Ohio voters just want to vote for the candidate who spends the most money on commercials. They will vote for the political party that invests in them and spends time and attention long before election day. Candidates should be visiting Ohio early on to discuss their plans for healthcare, jobs, and education. Investing their time as well as their money to make sure voters understand that they won’t be forgotten the minute the candidate wins the election.

In this time of political turbulence where constituencies have begun realigning, union voters are voting Republican while wealthy suburbanites are supporting Democrats, thousands of voters are still unsure of who they’ll support in the future. Any political party willing to invest their time, energy, and money in capturing these voters will be able to win the state of Ohio.

Jim Renacci represented Ohio’s 16th congressional district as a Republican from 2011 to 2019. He is the chairman of Ohio’s Future Foundation.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.