Ohio, Maker or Breaker of Presidents

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By Albert R. Hunt

Ohio is used to being ground zero in presidential elections.

In 1960, knowing that no Republican had ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio, John F. Kennedy made a major effort in the Buckeye state, holding huge rallies. Although Kennedy was elected president, his Republican opponent, Richard M. Nixon, carried Ohio by 222,762 votes. "Nowhere did I receive such a tumultuous reception, but less votes," Kennedy noted.

In another close contest, Jimmy Carter's 1976 victory was sealed when he carried Ohio by 11,100 votes, or about 0.25 percent. He achieved this by winning votes in the small southeastern counties, which are culturally conservative and Republican-leaning.

In 2004, on election night, the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, thought he was winning Ohio, which would have given him the presidency over George W. Bush. When the final votes were tallied, he lost by 118,000, and he considered demanding a recount.

Four years ago, Barack Obama won the state, 51 percent to 47 percent. That was three points less than his national margin.

Ohio, though it is crucial in these national elections, is no longer the cradle of presidents. The state sent eight men to the White House, more than any other. The last Buckeye politician to be elected president was Warren Harding, more than 90 years ago, in 1920. He died three years later.

 (Albert R. Hunt is Washington editor at Bloomberg News and a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

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-0- Oct/21/2012 15:52 GMT