The Associated Press early Wednesday called President Trump as the winner of Ohio, a state with 18 electoral votes and one that many Democrats wrote off after Donald Trump won it by about 8 points in 2016, but that Joe Biden contested after polls showed a competitive race in recent months.
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) November 4, 2020
The Democrats advertised heavily on TV in Ohio late in the race, and the Trump campaign pulled its ads, expressing confidence that it had the state locked down. Ohio voted twice for Barack Obama before flipping to Trump four years ago.
Earlier Tuesday night, the AP also called Kentucky and Indiana for Trump.
But Ohio was the one that kept results watchers on the edge of their seats, first showing a lead for Biden before turning to Trump later in the night.
Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken took the stage just after midnight on election night to declare a win for President Donald Trump.
"That means the president's America First policies, that resonates with Ohioans. I feel like we're gonna have a good night. It's gonna be close in the rest in the country but I continue to believe that Americans and Ohioans believe in the American dream," Timken said.
The results are still unofficial in Ohio. However, Trump has a lead of more than 470,000 votes in the state with more than 285,000 outstanding absentee and provisional ballots.
The results watch party for the Ohio Republicans was an unusual event compared to past election nights. Instead of supporters gathering in a large ballroom, different Republican campaigns were set up in their own private rooms at a Westerville hotel with a live stream of the speakers once they took the stage.
Among those speaker was U.S. Senator Rob Portman who says Trump once again appealed to Ohioans with his economic message.
"I'm confident that we will win Ohio. And I think the reason Republicans will win Ohio is very simple. The economic message really works here. And if you look at what happened in the economy for Ohio and for the country prior to the COVID crisis, you know, we were hitting on all cylinders," Portman said.
Trump's success in Ohio was a continuation of what he saw in 2016, with the historically Democratic counties of Mahoning and Lorain flipping to Trump.
Republican strategist Mark Weaver says the election night results are a strong sign that Ohio is firmly a "red" state, a claim he made on election night four years ago. Weaver says people who used to align with Democrats are feeling forgotten by the party.
"The big surprise is that pieces of eastern Ohio that used to be Democrat, reliably so, are now turning Republican, Mahoning County perhaps being the most prominent of those," Weaver said.
The night also went well for Republican legislative leaders. The Republican caucuses picked up seats in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate expanding the existing supermajority in the state. But the GOP did split on the Ohio Supreme Court, with Justice Judi French losing and Justice Sharon Kennedy keeping her seat on the bench.
There was no ballroom, no party with the Ohio Democratic Party. Because of COVID, the party offered up a webinar with Chairman David Pepper. But there wasn't much for Democrats to cheer about anyway. They lost the presidential race in Ohio and many big offices. Pepper says they did the best they could with the resources they had.
"We worked very hard, frankly, with less resources than other states. We're very proud of that. And we are proud to have fought this battle to where it is tonight. We were very efficient. Our field team, we couldn't have been more scrappy dealing with a very big state working very hard every day. And, unlike the controversy of 16, we certainly did not divert resources from other critical swing states," Pepper said.
Democrats picked up one of the two Supreme Court seats up for grabs as former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner defeated Republican Justice Judi French. Pepper sees that as a win.
"Even one pickup is a major win because Chief Justice O'Connor, for those of us in Ohio who know, she's been a less partisan, more statesmanlike, figure," Pepper said.
In the end, all 12 Republican and four Democrats in Ohio's Congressional delegation were able to hang on to their seats. Pepper says there's a reason for that.
"Let's remember all 12 of these districts were badly gerrymandered. They were drawn to avoid any competition," Pepper said.
The Congressional maps will be redrawn next year under new rules designed to make the process less partisan. But with these latest victories, Republicans will still have an advantage in that map drawing process.