Ohio Is One Of The States Still Up For Grabs As Election Nears

Oct 16, 2016
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Throughout the show today, we're checking in with states still up for grabs as we come down to the wire. Elsewhere this hour, we'll hear from Arizona. First, NPR's Asma Khalid - she went to Ohio to figure out why the race there is so tight.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: As the United States has changed, Ohio has not changed as much. It's whiter - 80 percent white - and less highly educated than the country.

MATT MORRISON: There's no way to get to a majority of the vote or even a plurality without making major gains amongst white working-class voters.

KHALID: That's Matt Morrison with the group Working America. They're affiliated with the AFL-CIO and have endorsed Hillary Clinton. All year, they've been knocking on doors in middle-class neighborhoods across Ohio.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

KHALID: They focus on economic issues.

SARAH ROSENBLUM: How confident or concerned are you about your economic future and your family's economic future?

THOMAS ROSE: Right now, I'm pretty concerned.

KHALID: That's Thomas Rose talking to a Working America canvasser in South Columbus.

ROSE: Me, I've been kind of trying to find my career path. I've done forklifting for a few years. And I actually just recently got into electricity.

KHALID: Rose says if the election were today, he would vote for Donald Trump. The canvasser, Sarah Rosenblum, tells him they are supporting Hillary Clinton and the Democrat for Senate here, Ted Strickland.

ROSENBLUM: They both want to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour. And like you were saying, you know, the economy, it affects us all, so...

KHALID: And Rose seems receptive to talking about the economy with her, but this is an uphill battle. Barack Obama lost white working-class voters in Ohio. And 2016 is even more challenging for Democrats because Donald Trump is specifically courting these voters. But at the same time, Trump has repelled some traditionally Republican suburban women. Lehner's Pumpkin Farm is in Delaware County, a deep red pocket of the state, and it's here that I meet Cindy Hajjar near the corn maze and the sling shot where you can aim a pumpkin at Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

CINDY HAJJAR: I am a registered Republican. To be honest, I don't want to vote for either one of them.

KHALID: Hajjar says she has a lot of reservations about Clinton, but if she had to vote today, she'd probably choose Clinton.

HAJJAR: I guess the one thing that only sways me a little bit toward Hillary is just because of how bold and crude and rude Trump sounds.

KHALID: But there is one other factor. In 2012, Obama did not win a majority of the white vote. In fact, exit polls show Mitt Romney beat him by double digits, but Obama still managed to win the state because he had huge turnout among black voters who supported him 96 percent to 3. It's not clear that Clinton can match that, but President Obama was in Cleveland Friday trying to help her. Alea Warren was in the crowd. She says the president's stamp of approval really matters to her.

ALEA WARREN: But it's made me throw my support even further more behind Hillary seeing that Obama and Michelle are supporting her.

KHALID: To win Ohio, Clinton needs support from these three groups together - black voters, white working-class folks and white suburban women. And that is a complicated coalition. Asma Khalid, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.