No one disputes Ohio is a battleground state, and key for both President Barack Obama’s and challenger Mitt Romney’s path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
And if Ohio is the ultimate bellwether state, Lake County may be the best bellwether for Ohio. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, no county in Ohio has more closely matched the statewide voting pattern since 1960.
Bloomberg’s Matthew Dowd, who served as a campaign strategist for President George W. Bush and is now an independent, highlights why this county just outside of Cleveland is so critical in our series “Bellwethers: A 50-County Election.”
As Dowd points out, not only has the economy improved significantly in Lake County in the past few years, unemployment is 6.2 percent, down 1.6 percentage points since Obama took office and well below the national average of 8.1 percent. This bodes well for the president’s chances there come November, even though Obama barely eked out a win in Lake against John McCain in 2008. He won the county by only 1,013 votes.
Based on the latest U.S. Census data estimates, Ohio has about 11.5 million residents, 84 percent of whom are white, 12 percent black, and about 3 percent Hispanic. A wealthy county, Lake is also less diverse, with whites at nearly 94 percent. The median household income of $54,896 is above the state average of $47,358, and the number of people living below the poverty level is below the state average.
Dowd notes that the region that includes the county was part of the U.S. that was hardest hit during the recession, but also one that has recovered the fastest. Alongside the recovering auto industry and related manufacturing, the area has also benefited from being a great place for people to buy real estate and to open businesses, according to Dowd.
Next time we focus on New Mexico, just outside of Albuquerque. And take a look at some of the other posts from our Bellwether Series, focusing on Hamilton County, Ohio, Orange County, Florida, and Fairfax County, Virginia.