(CN) — The state of Ohio has been carried by every winning presidential candidate since 1960, including Donald Trump in 2016, but it’s possible — and perhaps fitting — that the trend could be disrupted in 2020.
It has been a tumultuous and historic year, and so perhaps it should come as no surprise that the presidential election might deviate from the expected course.
A poll of 907 registered Ohio voters conducted Sept. 20-23 by Fox News gives Joe Biden a five-point advantage over President Trump, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball currently has Ohio as a toss-up.
Trump won Ohio by nearly eight points in 2016, however, and a single round of polling does not signal a death knell to the incumbent’s chances in the Buckeye State.
Courthouse News spoke with Ryan Salzman, associate professor of political science at Northern Kentucky University, about the polling numbers and Ohio’s significance in the upcoming election.
“I think that these numbers for Biden are surprisingly good,” Salzman said, “and I’ll be curious to see if they hold. Donald Trump was consistently polling up in 2016 and he ended up winning by a pretty significant margin.”
Salzman considers Ohio essential if Trump wants to win reelection, based on polling numbers and trends in other surrounding states.
“If Biden wins Ohio, I don’t see a scenario where he doesn’t win the other ‘blue wall’ states,” Salzman said.
The “blue wall” refers to 18 states across the northern portion of the U.S. viewed as critical to any Democratic presidential candidate, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“These states somewhat move in concert with another,” Salzman said, adding that 2016 pro-Trump polling in Pennsylvania should have given analysts a clue regarding Ohio’s eventual victor.
Salzman was quick to point out, however, that even if Trump wins Ohio, it will not guarantee him a victory in 2020.
“I can definitely see a scenario in this election,” he said, “where we finally defy that run that Ohio has had in terms of being the great indicator.”
Bryan Marshall, chair of the Political Science Department at Miami University in Ohio, had similar thoughts about Biden’s routes to victory in 2020 during an interview with Courthouse News.
“I think there are a lot more paths open to Biden to win,” Marshall said. “If Trump wins Ohio, I don’t think that necessarily means it’s going to follow that sixty-year barometer.”
“There are so many other states that are on the board that could change the path for Biden,” he added, while mentioning Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as Arizona.
Ohio’s no excuse absentee voting meant no legislative changes were necessary to allow citizens to vote by mail during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Secretary of State Frank LaRose has nevertheless been diligent in encouraging those voting absentee to do so early.
According to LaRose’s office, as of Sept. 22, over 1.7 million absentee ballot applications have been received statewide, which is more than double the amount requested at the same time during the 2016 presidential election.
LaRose urged voters to send in their absentee ballots early because of structural changes to the U.S. Post Office and the large numbers of ballots submitted across the state, but remains confident Ohio can process the votes without a hitch.
“One of the big reasons why Ohio is considered the national leader in absentee voting,” LaRose said in a statement, “is because we’ve been doing it this way for nearly two decades. You get good at something when you practice, and Ohio has proven to be game-ready.”
The surge in absentee ballot requests has not come without difficulty, however, as the availability of ballot drop boxes and signature requirements have engendered partisan squabbling and spawned both federal and state litigation.