Suburban Women Boosted Democrats But Not Enough To Offset Losses By Unions And Small Towns

Nov 13, 2020

Unofficial results show Democratic President-Elect Joe Biden won seven Ohio counties – one less than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. But while President Trump won the state, it appears Biden won more votes than Clinton. Suburban women boosted Democrats in this election but those gains were offset by losses in other areas where Democrats have been successful in the past. 

While Ohio voters chose to re-elect President Trump by approximately the same margin he won by a few years ago, there was a difference. Some suburban areas were less red than they’ve been in past elections. 

Red, Wine and Blue
Credit Red, Wine and Blue Facebook page

And these ladies who are part of a national group known as Red Wine and Blue think women were the key difference. Katie Paris is the group’s director.

“Almost every suburban county moved in the Democrats direction. Delaware County narrowed the gap with Republicans by nine points. Warren County narrowed the gap with Republicans by seven points. In fact, all of the counties where we focused our attention with Red Wine and Blue, we saw movement in that direction," Paris says. 

And Paris, who’s based in Shaker Heights in suburban Cleveland, says the exit polling was even more remarkable when you look at white college educated women.  

“They moved 37 points from 2016. According to the exit polls, white college women voted for Trump by 17 points in 2020. They supported Joe Biden by 20 points. So that's real movement. We're excited about the progress that we've made," Paris says.

But an ad by the Trump campaign that depicted a 9-1-1 call being diverted to an answering machine may have swayed some Republican women to stay with the President. That ad said the call couldn't be answered immediately due to "defunding of the police."

Lee Ann Johnson who headed Ohio Women for Trump says this message resonated with some women.

“I think denouncing law and order just did not go over well with suburban women. I have a 16-year-old son. I want to know that, God forbid if he got into a car accident and had to call the police, that they were going to show up and make sure that everything was OK. And I think that is just multiplied across the state, especially for suburban moms," Johnson says.

Credit Ohio Women for Trump Facebook page

Lee Ann Johnson is the wife of Congressman Bill Johnson of Marietta, who was re-elected overwhelmingly in Ohio’s 6th District, which covers 18 counties in Appalachian Ohio. Johnson says the women the GOP put on the ballot were successful too. 

“The women, the Republican women in the House doubled their numbers. All 11 women seeking re-election in the US House were re-elected and we doubled those numbers by 13. That's remarkable. And every Republican candidate that flipped a Democrat seat was either a minority, a woman or a veteran. And that speaks volumes," Johnson says.

But even though Democrats performed better in suburban areas, Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper says those gains were offset by losses in small towns and rural areas. 

“If places that used to vote for Democrats like Mansfield or Marietta or all these other smaller towns that aren't the suburbs, they're a little more rural down now. Maybe it's West Union, Ohio. It's all over the state. Until Democrats have a real plan of action to help lift those communities, I think we will struggle.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper
Credit Jo Ingles

OSU Political science professor Paul Beck agrees Democrats need to do better with small towns in Ohio. But in the effort to gain suburban women, he says Democrats lost support from one of their key constituencies. 

“One big difference in Ohio compared with perhaps the national picture is that union members, union households in Ohio were considerably more for Trump. That was true nationally. Nationally, they were Biden supporters, majority of them in Ohio. A majority of them were Trump supporters. And you see this, by the way, in the results that appear from Mahoning Valley County and maybe Trumbull as well, that white industrial workers, largely males, but not entirely males, are very much enamored of President Trump and much less so than the Democratic nominee," Beck says.

Paul Beck, Political Science professor, Ohio State Univ.
Credit Jo Ingles

Democrats held onto gains they made in the suburbs in 2018, when they gained a net total of five seats in the Ohio House. And they added a seat in suburban Cleveland, with Monique Smith beating Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake). But Republicans picked up three seats that had been held by Democrats – in rural southeast Ohio, in extreme northeast Ohio and in the union-strong Mahoning Valley, where incumbent Gil Blair was knocked off by Mike Loychik.