Ohio Town Could Be a Bellwether in Race Between Clinton and Trump

Voters in New Waterford, Ohio, are struggling over the choice between the likely presidential nominees.

Inside Ohio’s Perfect Battleground Village

New Waterford, Ohio, is a battleground within a battleground.

Located near the Eastern border of Ohio -- halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh -- the town was evenly split during the 2012 presidential election. Both Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney took 263 votes each. In 2008, Obama edged out John McCain in the village by just 18 votes.

This year, as all-but-certain nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton battle to win Ohio, the perennial swing state, New Waterford is once again looking like a tossup. 

“Out of 500 or so average voters we have, you may have 100 complete Democrats or Republicans,” New Waterford Mayor Shane Patrone said. “The other 400 … like to remain independent. They don’t like to be labeled.”

Voters in New Waterford show little reluctance to vote across party lines. Even Adam Booth, the director of the Columbiana County board of elections and the vice chairman of the county’s Republican party voted for Patrone, a Democrat, when he ran for mayor in 2012.

In 2016, the decision to cross party lines is being complicated by what is perceived as a lack of good choices in either party.  

“I don’t see either one as a great candidate,” resident Brian Beight said.

Kim Dickey of New Waterford said her family has always voted for Democrats, but this year she is leaning toward supporting Trump. “Hillary has a long way to go to get me to come back to vote Democrat,” Dickey said. “Donald has a tell it like it is attitude, which you like, but sometimes you don’t.” 

Charles Koch, who was born in New Waterford in 1924, said he has always been a registered Democrat until this year, when he switched his party identification so that he could vote against Trump in the primary. In the general, he said he will “have to stick with the Democratic side this time” but said he is “very flexible” with his decision.

“When I look at Trump, I think he has good ideas, but he needs to tone it down and not swear,” said Village council member Doris Ogle. She said that she'll vote for Trump in the general election.

Trump lost Ohio's Republican primary to John Kasich, the state's governor, by more than 10 percentage points, and so far Kasich has held off endorsing him in the general election. 

The key to winning over voters in New Waterford may lie in striking the right tone about the role the president will play its citizens' lives. 

“For this community -- I think it’s like the rest of the country -- jobs are very important, national security is very important,” Patrone said. “Other than that I think most people just rather the government … just stay out of their lives and let them live. And that seems to be the attitude in this area.”

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