On the side
I don’t know who decides on the songs of the presidential campaigns, but they have strange senses of humor.
“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” is played at rallies for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her surrogates. But unlike Stevie Wonder, the Clinton campaign has a lot to worry about.
As for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is a mainstay. Again, the song title and its lyrics don’t exactly instill confidence in the campaign. Equally bad at Trump rallies is Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” It’s an odd choice for a campaign pick-me-up.
This is the most challenging presidential election to predict in my nearly three decades as a journalist.
So I’m not going to make one.
However, there are a few certainties that will come out of Tuesday’s election.
Hillary Clinton will have the lowest voting percentages in Mahoning and Trumbull counties for a Democrat since her husband’s first presidential run in 1992.
Between 1996 and 2012, in Mahoning County, the Democratic nominee received between 60.7 percent of the vote [Al Gore in 2000] to 63.5 percent of the vote [Barack Obama in the 2012 election].
I remember well an Ohio Democratic Party official complaining to me after the 2000 election that the Valley cost Gore the election because he only got 60.7 percent of the vote. I also remember thinking, “What more does this guy want?” It turned out that Gore’s percentage was bad in comparison.
The results for Democratic presidential nominees haven’t been as strong in Trumbull County, but they’re still plenty impressive between 1996 and 2012. The Democratic nominee received between 58.7 percent [Clinton in 1996] and 61.7 percent [John Kerry in 2004].
What’s deceptive about Clinton’s 1992 election – in which he received 51.5 percent of the vote in Mahoning and 50.7 percent in Trumbull – is that his margins of victory over incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush that year were as impressive as Democratic presidential nominees in other election years.
That’s because of the presence of Ross Perot in 1992. Perot actually got more votes in Trumbull County than Bush, the sitting president.
There’s no way Hillary Clinton gets into 60-percent-plus territory against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
She should be thrilled with the upper 50s, but it’s more likely she’ll be around 55 percent in Mahoning and a little lower in Trumbull.
And that’s not good news for her campaign.
However, if she’s able to have a margin of victory of at least 10 percentage points in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Clinton should consider herself very fortunate.
There are those who are convinced Trump will win the two Democratic-heavy counties. I’m one of those who will believe it when I see it.
In the past 80 years, Republicans have won Mahoning and Trumbull counties twice – Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 re-election and Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 re-election.
This is the most unusual election in my lifetime so I could be reading this completely wrong.
But again I anticipate it being much closer in the two counties than it’s been in decades.
Consider that Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney only four years ago by 28.3 percentage points in Mahoning and by 23 percentage points in Trumbull and the close race nearly everyone expects in the Valley is startling in comparison.
The crossover vote during the March primary among Democrats and nonaffiliated voters for Trump in Mahoning County garnered national headlines after I wrote about it.
The county has received visits from national and international media strictly for that reason.
The tight race for president in Mahoning County along with an expected poor showing by Democrat Ted Strickland in the U.S. Senate race could pose problems for some of the down-ticket incumbent Democrats in Mahoning County.
Nearly all of those Democrats are safe, but there could be an upset or two in the works. It’s unlikely, but if voters come out and vote a straight Republican ticket, we could see an incumbent Democrat go down. The most vulnerable appears to be county Treasurer Dan Yemma.
Clinton’s showing in Mahoning and Trumbull counties will be a sign for her campaign in Ohio and the nation.
If she is to lose the counties or if Trump can keep it close here, Clinton loses Ohio. If she somehow pulls 60 percent – and I can’t see that happening – Clinton is going to have a great election night.
Trump needs to win Ohio to have a shot at the presidency. Clinton can afford to lose Ohio and still have a path to winning the Electoral College vote.
The only other thing in the Mahoning Valley that is a near certainty is that Trump will do exceptionally well in Columbiana County.
What was once a swing county has grown more solid Republican over the last decade under the strong leadership of county GOP Chairman Dave Johnson.
I could easily see Trump getting 70 percent of the vote or better in Columbiana County.
So who gets elected president?
As I mentioned, this is an exceptionally difficult election to predict so I’m not going to do so.