By Bertram de Souza
It has long been an article of faith in Ohio politics that as Mahoning and Trumbull counties go in statewide elections, so goes the state.
Democratic candidates for statewide offices, especially governor, capturing at least 60 percent vote in each county have generally carried Ohio.
Less than 60 percent, and the political fortunes of Republicans are vastly improved.
The 60 percent threshold also applies to the presidential contest in the state. Republican President Donald Trump’s 2016 win in Ohio can be traced to what occurred in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Trump, who had never run for office before but had cache because of his enormous wealth, his jingoistic message and his national reputation as host of the successful network TV show “The Apprentice,” carried predominantly Democratic Trumbull County and kept his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, from hitting the 60 percent mark in heavily Democratic Mahoning County.
That’s why the presidential contest served as the backdrop to Tuesday’s midterm election in the Mahoning Valley.
The question was simply this: Would Democrats who had left the party to vote for Trump return to and support the local and statewide candidates?
The complete but unofficial results show they didn’t in the numbers that could have spelled victory.
Democrats in the Mahoning Valley have no reason to celebrate, and the party leaders must take a hard look at themselves.
Chairmen David Betras of Mahoning County and Daniel Polivka of Trumbull County were under pressure to deliver the vote for the party ticket led by Richard Cordray, who was in a tight race for governor with Republican insider Mike DeWine, currently Ohio attorney general.
Betras and Polivka were blamed by some in the Ohio Democratic Party for dropping the ball in 2016 that enabled Trump to carry Ohio.
They again failed last night, and it won’t be long before they hear the calls for their resignations.
Betras and Polivka can try to spin the results of the governor’s race all they want, but the fact remains that they blew it.
In Mahoning County, Cordray received 48,600 votes to 36,976 for DeWine. The 56.1 percent Cordray total speaks volumes.
In Trumbull County, which went for Trump in 2016, Cordray garnered 37,789 votes to 33,609 for DeWine. Cordray’s 51 percent is also revealing.
Statewide, Cordray, who served as the first director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Barack Obama, lost to DeWine by about 200,000 votes in unofficial totals.
The race went down to the wire, and by any analysis it was a stunning victory for the attorney general.
DeWine had been preparing for this office from the time he entered politics almost 40 years ago, and has served as state senator, U.S. representative, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, and since January 2011 as Ohio’s attorney general.
He fully embraced President Trump even though they aren’t on the same page ideologically. DeWine is a traditional conservative; Trump isn’t.
There was another statewide race that was watched closely because of its implications. Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, seeking a third six-year term, handily defeated his challenger, Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.
Renacci gave new meaning to the concept of negative campaigning when he dug up Brown’s divorce papers from 30 years ago to argue that the senator was unfit to hold public office.
Brown’s former wife not only criticized the Republican congressman’s attack on her family, but went so far as to request that he stop making her private life an issue in the election.
Brown’s sweeping victory delivers two important messages: First, voters are tired of sleazy politics. And, President Trump’s victory in Ohio wasn’t about party or ideology.
It was about his appeal to a significant segment of the electorate that agrees with his overall “anti” message – anti ... global trade, immigrants, Muslims, women, minorities, LGBTQs.
Tuesday’s election has given rise to this: How do Democrats defeat Trump in Ohio in 2020?
The GOP’s sweep of statewide administrative offices provides this answer: