Republican Debate 2016: Why Is It In Cleveland? Ohio Could Decide Who Wins White House Race

Ohio voters held the nation in suspense in 2004 as voting officials tallied the state's close results in the contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry that November. Once the count was over, Ohio had decided for the country to give Bush a second term in the White House.

Ohio's key role in determining presidential contests is back in the spotlight Thursday as Republican 2016 contenders gathered in Cleveland for the first primary debate of this election season. Meanwhile, the GOP announced earlier this year that its national Republican convention, where one of the 17 candidates debating this week will likely be named the nominee, will also be held in Cleveland. Ohio is a crucial win for any White House hopeful because of its diverse mix of elderly, black, white, Hispanic, rural and urban voters who have combined in recent elections to create a key battleground for any campaign. Even without going into the numbers associated with the Electoral College system that determines who wins the election, there’s a clear historical precedent: No Republican has ever lost Ohio and won the presidency.

Ohio is a key swing state largely because in most states presidential elections aren't very competitive. Across the nation, the Electoral College voting structure gives Democrats a clear advantage. There are 242 votes almost certain to end up in the hands of Democrats and just 206 for Republicans, according to Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. To win an absolute majority, 270 votes are needed. There are only about seven states that don't lean strongly toward one political party, and Ohio is the second biggest after Florida.

“If you’re a Republican, you have to win Florida and Ohio,” O’Connell said. “If you’re a Democrat, you only have to win Ohio.”

So, what do Ohio voters care about?

“You can bet that one is the economy,” O’Connell said. They are also focused on foreign policy and terrorism. “In a lot of ways, they’re a lot more like the national Republican voter,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Clark Mindock at International Business Times 

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