Thursday, February 21, 2008

If Wisconsin Presages Ohio, Will Appleton Presage Lima?

Like similar sized “Rust Belt” cities, Lima, Ohio has seen a post-war economic boom followed by a period of industrial decline and sporadic racial violence. However, unlike many of those organized labor-heavy cities, Lima has remained rock ribbed Republican. Allen County - Lima hosts the county's seat - even stuck with Goldwater in ‘64, one of only five Ohio counties to do so that year, and wavered in its fealty to the GOP only narrowly in FDR’s Depression era landslides of ’32 and ’36. In this regard, the heavily Republican and 1920's KKK redoubt of Lima has been closer, electorally and geographically, to Richmond, Indiana than Flint, Michigan.

Given that history, it’s curious that last Sunday’s Washington Post chose Lima to feature as reporter Ricky Carioti investigated whether Hillary Clinton can hold onto her waning majorities among white working class voters as the primary season progresses, and if Obama can excite a previously politically sedate Afro-Am minority. (The Post noted that Democratic Governor Ted Strickland did carry Lima in ’06 and Kerry picked up very slightly in Allen County over Gore’s performance four years earlier.)

Pundits are poring over Wisconsin’s primary results for clues as to how Ohio might vote on March 4. Lima’s demographics and electoral history resemble that of Appleton, Wisconsin. Indeed, the cities of both Lima and Appleton split nearly evenly between Bush and Kerry, while the surrounding counties of Allen and Outagamie, Wisconsin returned healthier Bush margins. In Appleton, Obama replicated his statewide margin, but Huckabee nips at McCain’s heels in many wards.

Stay tuned to this post for an update after Ohio votes to see if Lima shows evidence of further Obama gains among white working class voters and if Huckabee can post a respectable conservative base protest vote again here.

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