50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 17. Ohio

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

17. Ohio

Capital: Columbus

Nickname: The Buckeye State

Motto: With God, All Things Are Possible

About the State

Ohio was inhabited by various Native American groups prior to the arrival of settlers from the Old World, including tribes of the Miami Confederation, and the Erie, who resided in the north of the state.  In the 17th century, the Iroquois tribes of New York, having exhausted the supply in their own territory, started the Beaver Wars so that they could continue their fur trade and, following their success, Ohio was barely inhabited, instead being used as a hunting ground.  From 1756 until 1763, the French and British were fighting against each other across the globe in the Seven Years’ War – the portion of that conflict that took place in North America was known as the French-Indian War.  Under the terms of The Treaty of Paris – which ended the hostilities – France ceded Ohio to the British, who then later gave up their claim to it to the United States in 1783.  No battles of the Revolutionary War took place in Ohio County (as it was called then), but it was the site of the Gnadenhutten massacre – where Pennsylvania militia killed 96 Lenape (including 39 children) whom them had accused of taking part in raids in their colony.

In 1803, Ohio became the 17th state of the Union when President Thomas Jefferson signed an act of Congress recognising its boundaries and constitution.  The northern border became disputed in 1835, when Ohio fought the Toledo War against Michigan for control of the strip of land between the two states.  President Andrew Jackson sided with Ohio – mostly because their foe was only a territory, thus did not have any votes in the Electoral College – but though it had to give up any desire to control the Toledo Strip, Michigan was given the western two-thirds of the Upper Peninsula as compensation.  During the Civil War, Ohio provided more troops per capita to the Union forces than any other state, as well as three of the top Generals: Ulysses S. Grant; Phillip Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman.

The completion of the Erie Canal in the 1820s allowed companies to ship their products via Lake Erie to the east coast, increasing opportunities for companies based in Ohio to sell their products.  Both agriculture and industry have played a major role in the shaping of the state’s economy and, by the end of the 19th century, it was the second biggest in the production of steel (behind Pennsylvania), while its biggest city at the time – Cleveland – had 86 oil refineries, was the home of  Standard Oil –  through which John D. Rockefeller became known as the World’s First Millionaire – and Dow Chemical Company, the second largest chemical maker in the world.     Now, manufacturing and finance each comprise about 1/5th of the state’s Gross Domestic Product and it ranks first in plastics and rubber yield in the nation.  Ohio also has strong renewable energy, food processing and aerospace sectors, plus it is the location of some of the best medical facilities in the world – most notably the Cleveland Clinic.

The state is known as the birthplace of aviation – as the Wright Brothers invented their first plane there – and of Presidents, as seven natives of Ohio – Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Taft and Harding – have gone on to win the White House.  Thomas Edison was born in Milan (pronounced My-Lan, not like the Italian city) and the first professional baseball team were the Cincinnati Red Stockings (whose nickname is now just “Reds), who are one of six “Big Four” sports franchises in the state, along with their fellow MLB side, the Cleveland Indians; Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals (NFL); Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA); and Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL).  Ohio also has the Pro Football Hall of Fame (in Canton), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland), and one of the nation’s most visited amusement parks, Cedar Point (Sandusky).  It is the only state of the fifty whose flag is in the shape of a pennant, ranks as the 34th biggest in area and, with just over 11.5 million residents, 7th in population.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 18

2008 Result: Obama 51.2% McCain 47.2%

Latest Poll: Obama +4%

Perhaps the most crucial swing state of them all, Ohio could be the state that determines the winner of the 2012 Presidential election, just as it did in 2004.  Should Obama win Wisconsin, Colorado and New Hampshire (all states he leads in), with Romney taking Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Nevada (which Bush Jr won in both of his campaigns) then Ohio’s 18 Electoral College Votes put either candidate over the 270 mark needed to win the White House.  Since the Second World War, only one President has secured victory without carrying Ohio, JFK in 1960, every other time the state has acted as an indicator of who would win the election.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Ohio this November, as incumbent Sherrod Brown – a Democrat – seeks a second term against Republican candidate, Josh Mandel, with Brown currently around 8 points up in the polls.

Redistricting following the 2010 census has seen the number of Representatives Ohio has in the House drop from 18 to 16, with the current delegation made up of just 5 Democrats to the GOP’s 13.  The 16th district might be the most interesting Congressional race in the entire country, as it is a battle between two incumbents: Rep. Betty Sutton (D) – who currently represents the 13th district, where Rep. Tim Ryan is running after his 17th district was one of the two that was removed – and Rep. Jim Renacci (R) – who has served the 18th district, which also will no longer exist, for the last two years.

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