SE Ohio Counties Offer Presidential Study In Contrast

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UPDATE 10:40 PM Athens County in 2012 was once again a spot of blue in a sea of red.  Athens County is the only county in Southeastern Ohio to vote for President Barack Obama.

The President has defeated Gov. Mitt Romney in Athens County by a 66 percent to 31 percent margin. This matches the 35 point win for Obama in 2008. 

Meanwhile, Washington County, as usual, has voted Republican 55 percent to 37 percent for the President. While there was a slight decline for Obama, the GOP did not significantly increase its winning margin over 2008.


Two neighboring counties in Southeastern Ohio might be indicators of how the state will vote for president.  Athens County and Washington County abut each other and are studies in contrasts.

Athens County perennially has been a blue island in a sea of red.  It has voted Democratic in each presidential election but one since 18 year olds first got the right to vote in the 1972 Presidential race. 

In that campaign, Athens County, the home of Ohio University, was one of only two counties in the entire state of Ohio to vote for Democratic Senator George McGovern over GOP President Richard Nixon.  Lucas County (Toledo) was the other.

The string of Democratic wins has been consistent in Athens County.  It has only voted Republican once in the last four decades and that was for President Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984 over former Vice President Walter Mondale.  

In 2008, the county gave Barack Obama a 35-point win.  Athens County had the second largest winning percentage for Obama in Ohio, according to PBS Election Statistics.  Cuyahoga Co. (Cleveland) topped the state with a 39 percent win.

Washington County, Athens neighbor to the east, has voted quite the opposite.  It is a major contrast. It has a consistent record of voting Republican in presidential races. It has voted for the GOP candidate in every election since 1964.  In that year, Democratic Pres. Lyndon Johnson defeated Sen. Barry Goldwater in Washington Co. 56 percent to 44 percent.

Last election, in 2008, Washington County gave Sen. John McCain a win by a 56.9 percent to 41.3 percent margin over Obama.

Tonight, observers will be watching these two counties and asking these questions: will President Obama be able to match his 35 point 2008 margin in Athens County and will Governor Mitt Romney be able to garner a higher GOP turnout and a higher Republican winning percentage in Washington Co. than McCain? 

The answers may note how close this race might be in the battleground of Ohio politics. In 2008, Obama defeated McCain in Ohio 51.5 percent to 46.9 percent. 

Tom Hodson is WOUB's General Manager.