Predictability is the backbone of American politics and two trends are certain to continue this election cycle in Preble County — a small, rural county in southwest Ohio — where I live.
1.) GOP Candidate Donald Trump Will Easily Carry The County
Of course, saying Donald Trump will win Preble County is like saying water is wet. Although, by no means a political expert, I predict Trump will carry 70 percent of the vote. I base the number on previous presidential campaigns which suggest we are politically moving to the right.
- In 2012, Mitt Romney carried 67 percent of the Preble County vote.
- In 2008, John McCain carried 64 percent.
- In 2004, George W. Bush carried 65 percent.
- In 2000, George W. Bush carried 62 percent.
The only caveat, because of our strong Independent voter base, is Libertarian Gary Johnson. The last time I looked at voter rolls (a couple of years ago) we were divided into three groups with the following rough numbers:
- Republicans — 40 percent
- Independents — 40 percent
- Democrats — 20 percent
So it is possible ‘what’s Aleppo’ Johnson could skim off five to ten percent of the vote. Regardless, Hillary Clinton will get about 30 percent.
Another factor convincing me Trump will outperform his recent Republican predecessors is the 2016 GOP primary. Preble (and Darke County to the north) joined 29 of Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties in choosing Donald Trump over governor, and establishment Republican, John Kasich as the GOP presidential candidate.
As the chart pictured above shows, historically Preble County’s unemployment rate has fared better during a Democrat presidency — and we need steady employment because as a county we are not affluent. This lack of affluence is a common bond shared among ‘Trump counties,’ according to columnist and Ohio University professor Thomas Suddes. He writes,
For the most part, the Trump counties have lost good-paying union jobs, in steel, manufacturing or mining, and what jobs remain for working people in those parts of Ohio, or what new jobs may arrive, pay less, have no security, and offer skimpy benefits – if any.
Preble County’s per capita wage is $23,603 — about $11 an hour. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which uses a different standard of measurement, pegs our per capita wage at $34,757 in 2014 (latest stats available)– or about 75 percent of the national average. As the BEA chart indicates, the downward trend of Preble County’s wages began in the late 1960s/early 1970s and ended in 2009/2010 during the Obama presidency when average wages began moving slightly upward.
Despite the upward movement, Preble County will forego a Democrat presidential candidate. (Yes, it feels a little bit like What’s The Matter With Kansas?)
What’s Trump’s Appeal?
Trump’s appeal to voters is anyone’s guess, but undoubtedly ranking near the top of the list are his ‘outsider’ image, his position on government/taxes — and, of course, how unfavorably many American view Hillary Clinton. Despite criticism (mine included) of Trump’s campaign methods, one American political concept he definitely understands — one championed by GOP strategist Newt Gingrich decades ago — is the candidate (and Party) that runs against the government, wins.
In Monday night’s debate, Trump bolstered his anti-government appeal by promising to slash taxes. In typical Trump fashion the cut would bigger and better than any tax cut in the history of mankind. He even promised to best president Ronald Reagan’s 35 percent corporate tax cap — by driving the rate down to 15 percent.
This is one reason I’m confident a Trump presidency will drive up Preble County’s unemployment rate.
Under Reagan’s economic policy Ohio’s unemployment peaked at 15 percent — about four percentage points higher than the nation. Nationally, the unemployment rate did not fall below 7.5 percent until Reagan’s final two years in office when concentrated government spending (i.e. the Keynesian economic model not Trickle-Down economics) — pulled the country out of a recession.
During the Reagan years, Preble County’s unemployment rate fared a little better than Ohio’s — basically mirroring the national trend. Preble’s unemployment rate during those years peaked at 12.1 percent in 1982.
Despite Preble County’s allegiance to GOP presidential candidates, the county experienced its best unemployment rate in the modern era during Bill Clinton’s presidency. When Clinton took office in 1993, Preble’s unemployment rate was 6.4 percent. It hovered near the four percent mark during his entire presidency ending at 3.8 percent when he left office in 2000.
Localize The Stats For Your County
- All the stats used in the final section can be found — and modified for your own county — by visiting https://fred.stlouisfed.org/.
- The Columbus Dispatch maintains a database of Ohio’s unemployment rates back to 1967. Their unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted — so they will not exactly match the unemployment rates displayed in the Fred chart.