Ohio voters like David Vernon, 18, a self-described moderate and avid social media user, are being sought by both political parties. (AP)
Columbus, Ohio— Working-class whites are no longer a majority of Ohio’s eligible voters, a historic shift in a key Midwestern swing state that has political parties pledging more outreach to a broader coalition of demographic groups.
Democrats are working to paint themselves as the party of diversity. Their 2014 statewide ticket features three white men, two white women and one black woman, compared with the Republicans’ all-but-one-male, all-white line-up. Republicans, meanwhile, are seeking to maintain a hold on older voters while courting a new wave of potential Ohio voters, including suburban women under 40 and young college conservatives.
The type of voters both parties seek includes David Vernon, 18, of Columbus, who will be a freshman at the University of Akron this fall. An avid user of social media who describes himself as moderate, Vernon said he has seen a steady increase in tweets from both parties aimed at attracting younger African-American voters like himself.
“Many young people I talk with are tired of both parties,” he said.
Nationwide, working-class whites — defined as those ages 18 to 64, with less than a bachelor’s degree — are more likely to be socially conservative, less optimistic about their futures and skeptical of big government. But in Ohio, the group has been much more politically divided, encompassing deeply religious, GOP-leaning conservatives in rural areas, as well as unionized blue-collar Democrats in cities.
Now, those voters are getting older, moving some of them into a 65-plus group that is more likely to back the GOP. Ohio, which a Republican National Committee panel is backing to host the 2016 GOP convention, has gone with the winning presidential candidate in every election since 1964.
Chris Redfern, Ohio’s fiery Democratic chairman, said his party has long sought to expand outreach by hiring African-American voting coordinators around the state.
State GOP Chairman Matt Borges bluntly acknowledged that Republicans have often ignored non-white voters but said they can offer moderate candidates capable of winning the support of blacks and whites.
About 4.1 million, or 48 percent, of eligible voters in Ohio are working-class whites, falling below 50 percent for the first time ever, according to unpublished 2014 census data. That’s down from 50.5 percent in November 2012. As recently as 1980, that number was 66 percent.