Fundraising numbers aren’t everything, but they do tend to be a good gauge of not only voter enthusiasm, but a campaign’s organizational skills. And if the numbers we’re seeing in Ohio now are any indication, President Trump in on track to coast to an easy victory in the Buckeye State.
According to Open Secrets, Trump has outraised the top two 2020 contenders combined in the battleground state with a cash haul of more than $2.4 million thus far. Sanders leads Democrats in fundraising in Ohio with $1.2 million heading into Ohio’s March 17 primary, with Pete Buttigieg not far behind with $938,046 raised. While it’s true that the combined haul of remaining Democrat presidential contenders—$3.6M— tops Trump’s, a closer look at the numbers tells a different story.
The fact is, Trump is not just leading in the rural parts of the state, where he’s expected to win handily, but also in the Democrat-voting metro areas like Akron, Canton, Massillon, Cincinnati, Dayton—even Toldeo, Youngstown and Cleveland, which all voted for Hillary in 2016. Open Secrets lists 13 “Top Metro Areas” in Ohio and Trump is leading in every big city but Columbus—but even there, he’s not far behind. Trump trails Biden in the state’s capital by a mere $6,000 (can someone in Columbus please go top Trump off so we can make it official?). An even deeper dive shows Trump beating the combined total all Democrat candidates have raised in Cleveland—$1.8M for Trump vs. $1.022 million for the Dem field. Cleveland, you may recall, voted for Hillary over Trump, 65-30, in 2016.
Interestingly enough, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg hasn’t raised a dime of support in Ohio, even though he’s flooding the airwaves with ads—to the tune of $10.5 million thus far. I can hardly turn on my radio or TV without being assaulted by that whiny, condescending voice complaining about America and staring daggers at my sugary soda through the screen. The Democrat longshot announced last week that he has 91 paid staff on the ground in Ohio and is reportedly paying field organizers $6,000 per month, plus health insurance—double or triple what other campaigns are paying, according to The Week. He’s opened 13 field offices, with more on the way, and is snapping up top talent in the state, including state campaign director Aaron Pickrell, who headed up Obama’s Ohio campaign. No other Dem candidate has such a large footprint here—or anything close to Bloomberg’s massive war chest.
Polling has been scant in Ohio thus far. A September Emerson poll shows Biden, Sanders, and Warren all besting Trump by single digits in head-to-head polls. Results from Public Policy Polling in October show Trump in a dead heat with Warren, Sanders, and Biden, with Buttigieg trailing the incumbent president by five points (I suspect the “first gay president” isn’t going to be a huge selling point here in the heartland).
But, of course, a lot has changed since those polls were taken in the fall, with Warren and Biden tanking as Buttigieg and Comrade Bernie see their stars rise. A late-January Baldwin Wallace University Great Lakes poll—small though it was with 1031 Ohio registered voters (not “likely voters,” which is a better measure) and “quotas for age, education, and gender”—found that if the election were held today, 44.3% would vote for the Democratic Party’s candidate while 39.4 would pull the lever for Trump. Sixteen percent said they were undecided (note: be very suspicious of those quotas—they’re generally not an accurate reflection of voter turnout).
Nearly half of respondents—44.7% (that’s 81.9% of Dems and 41.5% of Independents)—said they are “almost certain” to vote against Trump, no matter who the Dems nominate, with 36.4% saying they’ll vote for Trump no matter who is on the Dem ticket (72.5% of Republicans and 24.1% of Independents). Nearly 71% of undecided are “unsure” of which way they’re even leaning, which shows just how volatile this thing could be.
When asked if they’re “very motivated” to vote in November, 74.2% said they’re looking forward to going to the polls. There’s a small enthusiasm gap: 79.6% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans are excited to vote for the next president; 80.9 percent of men answered in the affirmative, which may bode well for Trump.
And as in other states, economic issues top the list for nearly one-third of Ohio voters. Health care and security (terrorism, foreign policy, and border security) are important to nearly a quarter of those surveyed—that also bodes well for Trump, with a soaring economy and record unemployment numbers topping his presidential resume. Hardly anyone here seems to care much about issues the Democrat presidential candidates are harping on night and day: the climate-change scare and “women’s issues”— they both bottomed out among respondents, polling in single digits.
Even worse for candidates like Sanders and Buttigieg, more than half of those surveyed (54.3%) said the Democratic Party has moved too far left—and 27.5% of Democrats say that’s the case. Independents, too, think the Dems have moved too far left (48.6%). Among those polled, 47.6% say the GOP has moved too far right, with 47.9% of Independents agreeing along with 27.3% of Republicans. (I’d call that a wash, but it highlights just how divided we are as Americans.)
But polls schmolls, right? If there’s one thing most of us took away from the 2016 election it’s that polls are increasingly irrelevant and wildly inaccurate—owing to everything from biased questioning to the pervasiveness of cell phones to a reluctance on the part of those surveyed to answer in a way they think might reflect poorly on them were their neighbors to find out.
And money isn’t everything, even though Bloomberg wishes it were so.
But factors like enthusiasm, voter turnout, and campaign organization do matter, and they are what will make the difference in November, as they do in nearly every election—from dog catcher to chief executive of the most powerful nation on the earth. It remains to be seen whether anyone in the Democratic field can really make a play for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes—it appears only Bloomberg is focusing on the state at this point—and we’ve got a lot of spring, summer, and fall to go before voters descend on the polls.
I will say, anecdotally, that as I drive around the heart of Ohio, it appears to be Trump country. Trump-Pence campaign signs are blooming like dandelions in the springtime and it’s not uncommon to see houses festooned with Trump regalia. I snapped these pictures today in blue-collar, historically Democrat-voting Barberton, Ohio, where Trump eked out a surprise two-point victory over Clinton in 2016.
And there are many more just like it. I’d put my money on Barberton going for Trump again in November—by more than two points.
Republican operatives I’ve talked to in Ohio are all confident that Trump will win in November, but they’re not taking any chances. They plan to campaign every bit as hard for Trump as they did in 2016—and likely even harder now that he’s delivered on jobs, conservative judges, and other hot-button issues.
Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard