CINCINNATI — Despite what you've heard about the presidential race, it's still close in Ohio.
The last two weeks have seen a flood of dire pronouncements and forecasts on Republican Donald Trump's performance in the general election. He doubled down on a kerfuffle involving the father of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier. He appeared to suggest gun violence against Democrat Hillary Clinton or her potential Supreme Court picks. He has fallen in polls, nationally and in swing states. On Thursday, he spoke of "regret" for having said "the wrong thing ... particularly where it may have caused personal pain." On Friday, he accepted the resignation of his second campaign chief.
1. Ohio has the working-class white voters that make up Trump's support base.
Since last year, Trump's most strident supporters have been blue-collar white voters, who back Trump's opposition to free trade and agree with him that U.S. immigration trends have threatened their job security. College-educated white voters have been more wary of Trump.
Yes, we know Ohio is industrial (there's that "Rust Belt" thing, remember?), but we can show the base of Trump's support with numbers. Nearly three-fourths of white Ohioans over the age of 25 lack a bachelor's degree. That's nearly the top percentage among swing states, according to data analyzed by the people who conduct the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. In total, that group makes up 63% of the Ohio electorate over the age of 25, also nearly the top percentage among swing states.
To compare, New Hampshire, another heavily white swing state, has a better-educated population. Only two-thirds of white Granite Staters lack college degrees. And, yep, Clinton has a 13-point lead there in recent polls.
2. One group that is relatively small in Ohio? Latinos.
Only about 3% of Ohio's population are Latinos, compared with an estimated 17% nationally in 2014. Even though Ohio is the seventh-largest state by population, it ranks 42nd in percent of population that is Latino, according to the American Communities Survey and the Pew Research Center.
Much of Trump's rhetoric about immigration and building a wall on the border with Mexico has alienated Latino voters, but that has proved less of a problem in Ohio.
(Note that Florida polls, however, have Clinton ahead by the same margin as in Ohio, even though the state's percentage of Latino residents ranks sixth in the U.S. Trump trails by at least 10 percentage points in Colorado, but is essentially tied with Clinton in Nevada, two other states with large Latino populations. As always, all of these demographic factors interact with each other and shouldn't be viewed in a vacuum. And remember that Latinos are a diverse voting group, representing a variety of races, nationalities and generational statuses in the U.S., which have historically supported both Republicans and Democrats.)
3. No matter what happens, it's still Ohio.
"Ohio is always really close," Duffy said.
Clinton's 4.5-point lead? If that were to be her margin on Election Day, it would tie the largest margin of victory in the presidential contest in Ohio since 1996.
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