A History Of The Ohio Primary
( Here are some basic facts and a brief history of Ohio. The population of Ohio is approximately 11.5 million. George Bush carried the state 51%-49% in 2004.)
Here is a history of some notable results from Ohio since the first primary in 1912.
The first Ohio primary featured something modern political observers can grasp—An ideological fight among Republicans.
Progressive challenger, former President Theodore Roosevelt, defeated incumbent President William Howard Taft, a more conservative figure, by a 55%-40% margin. President Taft was from Cincinnati. This outcome shows the bent of the Ohio Republican electorate at the time and offers a clue why the progressive reform of the primary was embraced early in Ohio.
Judson had defeated Warren Harding in 1910 to become Governor.
(In November of 1912 in Ohio it was Wilson 41%, Roosevelt 27% and Taft 22%.)
In 1920, Ohioans had the chance to vote for locals in both primaries. The Republican winner was Senator Warren Harding who beat General Leonard Wood by an unimpressive 47%-41%. ( Maybe Ohio voters knew from experience that Senator Harding would be a bad President. He was in fact terrible President.)
Democrats in 1920 supported Ohio Governor James Cox with 98%.
However, despite the lack of unity in the primary, Harding beat Cox 59% -39% in November.
Hoover was easily renominated despite winning only 33% of all primary votes in 1932. It would not be until the 1970’s that primaries would begin consistently influential in the nominating process.
Coxey had been involved in politics since leading poor people’s protests in Washington in the 1890’s. He is interesting to read about.
President Taft’s son, Senator Robert Taft, was the 99% winner of the 1940 Ohio Republican primary. This was the beginning of a series of Taft efforts to reach the White House. Seen as a father of modern conservatism, and an author of the terrible Taft-Hartley Act, Taft was the choice of an “unpledged” slate of delegates that won the 1948 Republican primary. Taft also won the 1952 primary.
The 1964 and ’68 Republican favorite son choice in Ohio was Governor James A. Rhodes. An outspoken so-called “law-and-order” politician, it was Governor Rhodes who ordered the troops in at the killing of anti-war protesters at Kent State in 1970.
The 2008 Clinton–Obama fight seems an echo of the ’72 race to some degree.
While conservatives Taft and Rhodes had found favor with Ohio Republicans in the World War II and post-war era, a more moderate wing of the party prevailed in 1976. In ’76, incumbent President Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan 55%-45%. Not strong for an incumbent, but better than W.H Taft or Hoover had done in the Ohio primary.
The 1980 Democratic primary, contested in June when the race had already been decided, gave President Jimmy Carter a 51% 44% over Ted Kennedy. Another weak showing for an incumbent who would go on to lose.
Democrats in 1984 though went for the challenger to the party establishment. Senator Gary Hart defeated Walter Mondale42%-40%. The wonkish high-tech Hart’s win over a lunch-bucket union regular like Mondale in a state like Ohio showed the weakness of the Mondale campaign.
In 1988, ’92 and ’96, the Ohio primary took place late in the process. Voters in each party primary voted for the eventual nominee of the party.
For 2000, Ohio moved it’s primary up to Super Tuesday March 7. ( Please click here for a history of Super Tuesday.)The George W. Bush/John McCain battle was still alive at that point. The more conservative Bush won a 58%-37% victory. This confirmed again the dominance of the right in Ohio Republican politics.
(Post card is of Youngstown in 1910’s. Please click here for a history of Youngstown. )