Battle For Red Neck Ohio
By: Mark W Adams

PhotobucketHard to tell if Karl Rove is just blowing smoke or full of crap sometimes. Maybe it's just wishful thinking that he thinks John McCain can be competitive in the traditionally Democratic regions of Ohio.

Turd Blossom's Wall Street Journal column got my attention yesterday, not just for delving into my home State's presidential preferences, but because he specifically mentions four areas I've lived in by name.

See the dark blue counties on the map, the ones that went for Kerry last time around by a two-to-one margin? That's where I come from -- veritable fortresses of liberals under siege by the red Republican menace.

I grew up in the Mahoning Valley just north of Youngstown, went to college in Athens, that lonely blue county in the southeast, lived in suburban Cleveland 15 years after that. Now I blog from Toledo.

This could be the reason I simply can't relate to the red-necks who populate the rest of the State. I have to travel through Amish Country to see conservatives in their natural habitat. It's like visiting a foreign country. I've live in this State my whole life, but the cranial wiring of the average wingnut is simply a mystery to me from lack of exposure.

(And yes, I said red-neck. If you're offended, you might just be a red-neck. See Jeff Foxworthy for further clues.)

When you read Karl Rove's take on the Buckeye State, keep in mind that if only about 60,000 Ohio voters had switched (or been counted fairly), Kerry would have won in '04 -- thanks to my five "home" counties.

Then there is Ohio. Ground zero in '04, its 20 electoral votes will be hotly contested again this year. No Republican has won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.

How can Mr. McCain take Ohio? He can appeal to swing voters in the northeastern part of the state. Cuyahoga, Summit and Lucas counties and the Mahoning Valley are full of culturally conservative, working-class voters. In addition, Mr. Obama was wiped out in the primary among the blue-collar Reagan Democrats of southeastern Ohio. Outside of the university town of Athens, he won less than 30% of the vote in southeastern Ohio. This Appalachian region remains bad turf for him.

Mr. McCain will need to do well with suburban independents in the counties surrounding Columbus to balance heavy African-American turnout. He will also need to run strong in the Cincinnati suburbs in the southwest, and in rural and small-town counties.

Heh. McCain has ZERO appeal to the folks who've watched the manufacturing foundation of Ohio, centered in the northeast and along Lake Erie's coast, systematically destroyed through the conservative brand of economic mismanagement.

I've decided. Karl Rove is full of crap.

Oh sure, you can find your fair share of "culturally conservative, working-class voters" in those deep blue areas, (which is Rovellian for red-necks). That's why I sell so much more Budweiser than Guinness or wine spritzers (whatever those are). However, other than the bastion of enlightenment where I got my bachelor's degree, the deep blue counties are also union towns, run by Democrats, who run against other Democrats on ballots which include Republican picks mainly for comic relief and as a third party protest alternative.

Northern Ohio is a virtual lock for Obama. At least now that Blackwell isn't out there to rig things and our new Secretary of State has had no problems firing corrupt GOP party bosses sitting like feudal lords at the local Boards of Elections throughout the state. That's my hope anyway. Either way it's probably not Karl's fault he's so, um ... misinformed. It's not "The Math." It's the maps.

As usual, the maps are misleading. The one above comes right from Ohio's largest fishwrap, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, which also has similar maps of how Ohio voted in every presidential election since 1960, color-coded county-by-county. All of them are very interesting, yet would give you the wrong impression because just like the national maps, there's just too much red to account for a close race. Just five blue counties against that sea of red? How is that close?

PhotobucketHere's a better view of what's going on in Ohio. I've charted the number of voters from each of Ohio's 88 counties and assembled a new Ohio Electoral Cartogram that more accurately tracks people instead of real estate, The color scheme is the same as those from the first map above.

Different world, no? If it's bang for the buck Rove is looking for, going on the air in Northern Ohio makes a certain amount of sense. The traditional maps do give you a good sense of what's happening in the media markets, since TV and Radio signals only go so far. But it doesn't explain why there's an island of red in the northeast. Geauga and Lake Counties are not isolated from the Youngstown and Cleveland media reach -- indeed they overlap there.

In fact, they get a little bleed over from light blue Akron as well. But note the correlation of counties that are not included in any media market to all the red hued Bush counties. These people may be ill or under-informed about the rest of the world.

No, it's even weirder, weird if you consider living without electricity, let alone modern telecommunications is weird. Did I mention the Amish? Horse and buggies really do rule the road in Lake and Geauga Counties. Quaint, great cheese, pretty good wine, and hopelessly backwards. Just the place to find McCain supporters, the whole home-skool'd lot of them.Photobucket

This thing is kinda like playing Tetris when you try and fit it together. Cuyahoga County is the biggest blue blob in my cartogram with 100 little squares. The size of all the other counties is the ratio of total voters who cast ballots in that county's 2004 election according to CNN's reporting. Each square in the other counties represents one percent of Cuyahoga's turnout, fractions rounded and all counties get at least one square even if their turnout was embarrassingly small.

With the Taft/Blackwell/Dewine machine thoroughly disgraced and out of power, I seriously doubt McCain will be able to win their power center in Cincinnati. (Hamilton County is that light pink blob in the lower left of the first two cartograms, colored an unlikely shade of dark blue by the wiki in the media market map.) But it's no coincidence that the blank spots in the media coverage map correlate all too well to the deepest red of Ohio's voting patterns.

Ohio is a much bigger problem for Democratic outreach than the GOP at this time, at least using traditional broadcast media. Much like they did in Texas, the GOP built up party identity in red neck Ohio through churches, direct-mail and phone-banking. Despite the catastrophe that is the Bush years, their infrastructure remains in the rural counties where God, Guns and Gays still rule, and satellite TV is still considered "fancy."

But this here new-fangled internet thingy seems to be catching on. Nothing, and I mean nothing gives you cost effective message distribution better than the web.

Again, the conservatives' inclination to spread viral lies through e-mail is some years ahead of us. I remember being on list servers and one of about 80 recipients when my mail box filled with headers that read, "Fwd: Re: Fwd: RE: Fwd: Fwd: Re: Re: Re: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Re: Re: Re: Bill Clinton Killed Vince Foster." Those lists still survive, and in the days of high speed access, YouTube and 24/7 cable news, it's very easy to forget that a lot of folks don't get cable and still rely on dial-up -- but they vote. Those areas still get old fashioned email, and snail mail, and are red, red, red, right up to their necks.

There's a lot at stake this time around as you all know. One thing you can do to Fight The Smears is hit your own forward button every chance you get, and maybe enough of it will filter around, turning red to blue one neck at a time. Open up your address book and tell everyone on your lists that:

Now get busy.