The Southeast has been a swing area in Ohio politics, though it is also the least diverse at nearly 95 percent white. Hobbled by job losses and buffeted by the forces of globalization and economic modernization, with a lower percentage of people with college degrees, Ohio’s Appalachian region is full of “people who are angry at the world,” said John C. Green, the emeritus director of the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron.
As a result, Green said, the region has a “much higher tolerance for the rough and tumble of politics” — and could gravitate toward Josh Mandel, who has campaigned as much on attitude as he has on any particular conservative ideas. A super PAC backing Mandel has been running ads on rural radio stations in the area attacking Vance as “a fraud.”
In the 2016 Republican presidential primary, the Ohio map divided sharply between John Kasich, who was the sitting governor at the time, and Trump, who would of course go on to win the Republican nomination and the presidency. Kasich won Ohio’s most populous counties on his way to carrying the state, while Trump cleaned up in the Appalachian communities along the Ohio River.
Vance’s balancing act
One question on the minds of many Ohio watchers: How will college-educated Republicans respond to Vance?
Will they flock to the Yale-educated, worldly investor lurking inside the angry MAGA warrior Vance has become? Or will they be repelled by how far right he has moved to court Trump’s base?
Vance’s schedule and ad spending in the last few days of the race show a focus on suburban and small-town areas. Since Saturday, he has visited Circleville, a city south of Columbus; Cuyahoga Falls, a city north of Akron; Westlake, a suburb west of Cleveland; Dublin, a northwestern suburb of Columbus; and Mason, a northeastern suburb of Cincinnati.
A super PAC supporting Vance, Protect American Values, has spent heavily on TV advertisements in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, as well as Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown.