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Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2012

Electoral College may come down to Ohio this year, just as it did in 2004

What is Ohio's Mexico connection?

By David Gaddis Smith,

       It is looking more and more like the U.S. presidential election could come down to one ohioswing state, Ohio, just as it did in 2004. In 2004, had President George W. Bush not taken the state, Democratic challenger John Kerry would have narrowly won the election in the electoral college.

       What effect might Mexico and Mexican-Americans have on Ohio's vote this year? If the candidates' not even mentioning Mexico once during their foreign policy debate is any indication, it may not be much. But if the vote is razor-close, the Latino vote conceivably could put Obama over the top. Electoral college endgame at a glance.

       Although President Barack Obama enjoys a wide lead in the Hispanic vote over Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Latinos make up only 3.2% of Ohio's population of 11.5 million. The Latino population was 354,674 in 2010, with 48.5% of that Mexican or Mexican-American. It is unclear how many of those are undocumented.

       What perhaps can be said about the Latino and Mexican-American vote is that it may give Obama victories in battleground states such as Nevada and Colorado, putting the Democratic candidate in position to win the entire election if he can also gain Ohio's 18 electoral votes. The other battleground states are Florida (29), Virginia (13), Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10), and New Hampshire (4). Latinos make up 15.9% of Florida voters, 15.1% of Nevada voters and 13.7% of Colorado voters. Immigration does not seem to be a real hot-button issue in Ohio, although Ohio Republican state legislator Courtney Combs did say this summer that he would like to see Ohio have an immigration law similar to Arizona's.


      Electoral college: Why not one man or woman, one vote?


      Romney has been making major inroads in the preferences of white married women worried about the economy; it remains to be seen if that will be enough to bring him victory. Robert Merry, author of "Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians," says that almost always, an election involving an incumbent is about the incumbent's record. He indicated that Obama's negative ads that appeared to soften up Romney in the summer by portraying him as a corporate raider who slashed U.S. jobs and exported other jobs may have lost their effectiveness as voters turn their minds to weighing Obama's mixed economic and other record. Romney has had a positive campaign message that he will turn the U.S. job situation around.
Update, Nov. 4: Ronald Brownstein on ABC's "This Week" says that Obama's ads attacking Romney's Bain Capital for buying companies and cutting jobs have had a particular resonance in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin and could deliver the election to the president. David Brooks on Friday's "PBS Newshour" also said he thought the anti-Bain ads might have won Obama re-election.

       Ohio-Mexico business ties

       Ohio does a lot of business with Mexico, so much so that it has a trade office in Mexico City.  

       Auto industry

     The auto industry is a major connection between the two locations. Dublin, Ohio-based Pacer International Inc. was just named to handle auto parts shipments to Mexico for Union Pacific. Story, Columbus Business First. In 2008, Kongsberg Automotive said it was closing its manufacturing plant in Van Wert and moved production to Reynosa, Mexico. In May, two members of Mexico's Frente Autentico del Trabajo union from a newly-organized DMI plant in Iztapalapa visited a DMI plant in Edon, Ohio, in a visit sponsored by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). UE story.
      The loss of Ohio auto industry jobs resonates with voters, and Obama has been driving home this point, noting that he supported the GM bailout and that Romney did not. To try to counter this, in the last week of the campaign, Romney ran a deceptive ad indicating that the U.S. bailout of Chrysler was sending U.S. jobs to China.
      The U.S. auto-parts manufacturing industry had 113,800 jobs in Ohio in 1999, according to Department of Labor data compiled by the Center for Automotive Research as cited by The number of jobs in Ohio was down to 54,200 this year. The drop came for a variety of reasons, including jobs being shipped to Mexico and a 20% increase in Chinese auto parts imports since 2001, the website said, citing U.S. Department of Commerce data.
      The media organization said Commerce Department figures show auto-parts imports from China at $12 billion and from Mexico at $33.7 billion in 2011. Sean McAlinden of the Center for Automotive Research said Mexico has 400,000 more auto-parts manufacturing jobs than the United States and blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement. He told “Neither candidate, because of the Hispanic voter issue, will mention NAFTA or Mexico.”

       Ohio-Mexico history

      1846-1848 Mexican War:   According to, "Approximately seven thousand Ohioans enlisted in the United States army during the Mexican War. Most of these men served under Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico." The Ohio Historical Society has a Mexican War Room.

      thomas corwin U.S. Civil War, French invasion of Mexico: Former Ohio Gov. Thomas Corwin was President Abraham Lincoln's minister to Mexico from 1861 to 1864, during the U.S. Civil War and Mexico's invasion by the French. says "Corwin was popular in Mexico. He helped the United States maintain a strong relationship with that nation throughout the Civil War, in part because of his earlier opposition to the Mexican War."

      Immigration history:  Cleveland has a Mexican community that began in the 1920s. The Club Azteca was formed in 1932. Cleveland, which has fallen behind Columbus in the number of the Hispanics the cities have, recently began a program to try to assimilate more Latinos.

    Ohio’s Latino population grew from 217,123 in 2000 to 354,674 in 2010, a 63% increase. That is 3.2% of the total population. People of Mexican origin (172,029) made up 48.5% of Ohio's Hispanics.

    Franklin County has been termed the Mexican capital of Ohio, with almost 32,000 residents of Mexican origin calling it home, substantially more than any other county in the state, according to Franklin is home to Columbus, the capital of the state. Ohio State University is located there.
     Other groups in Ohio: African-Americans make up 12.4% of the population. The Mormon population of 57,045 makes up less than half of 1%.

       U.S.-Mexico soccer: The Columbus Crew stadium has been the site of World Cup soccer qualifying matches between Mexico and the United States three times, in 2001, 2005 and 2009. The United States won all three by scores of 2-0. Two were played in the winter, on Feb. 28, 2001, and Feb. 11, 2009, in a U.S. attempt to make sure the playing field was not level for Mexico. In the 2001 game, temperatures dipped below freezing. In 2009, the temperature was 52 degrees and raining.

Electoral college endgame at a glance

State Electoral votes (270 needed to win) Leans in poll averages Obama starting point = 237

Romney starting point = 206

Florida 29 Romney   235
Virginia 13 Romney   248
Iowa 6 slight Obama 243  
Ohio 18 slight Obama 261 Romney needs to win Florida and Virginia and Ohio and wrest away one other state, even New Hampshire, to get to 270
Wisconsin 10 Obama 271 Rasmussen Reports says Romney could lose Ohio but still win presidency by winning Colorado, Wisconsin and Iowa or New Hampshire in addition to Florida and Virginia.
Colorado 9 slight Obama 280  
Nevada 6 Obama 286  
New Hampshire 4 slight Obama 290