Here's how President Donald Trump won Ohio by almost exactly the same margin as in 2016

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Meet the new results, same as the old results.

So went the sage of the battle for Ohio in the presidential race.

President Donald Trump easily won the Buckeye State, with a final, unofficial margin of about 471,000 votes over former Vice President Joe Biden. That gives the Republican a lead of about 8.2 percentage points — virtually matching the spread of his surprisingly easy win in 2016.

For Ohio, this feels like a status quo election,” said Mark Caleb Smith, chair of the history & government department at Cedarville University.

More: Ohio election live results: See national, state and Columbus-area results

“There are lots of reasons for this, but the No. 1 factor is that Ohio is becoming whiter, and middle class and working class whites are overwhelmingly Republican, especially in rural areas. Those changes have offset Democratic strengths in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati,” he said.

Thus Ohio has become more like reliably red Indiana instead of competitive nearby states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

While the results in individual counties could change, Trump currently is carrying 81 of Ohio’s 88 counties. He won 80 in 2016.

This year, he lost only the urban counties — Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery and Summit — plus Athens, home of Ohio University. And he flipped Lorain and Mahoning counties, while giving up Montgomery.

“It’s the president’s America-first policies that resonate with Ohioans,” said Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken during a victory celebration at a Westerville hotel.

“I continue to believe that Americans and Ohioans believe in the American dream, and President Trump delivers the American dream for the future.”

Ohio’s turnout stands at 72%, with up to 311,519 provisional and mail ballots that will remain uncounted for a couple of weeks in Ohio. Trump holds an insurmountable lead over Biden even with the untallied ballots.

“The GOP and Trump campaign ground game held off the Democratic advantage in early voting and late campaign spending,” said John Green, former director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

“It happened up an down the ticket, with just a few exceptions due to especially strong candidates. A naturally competitive state ended up in the Republican column—again.”

Just before the stroke of midnight, Fox News and then NBC and others called Ohio for the incumbent.

Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman expressed confidence early on that Trump would again carry the state.

“I think the reason that Republicans will win Ohio is very simple: The economic message really works here. If you look at what happened in the economy for Ohio and for the country prior to the COVID crisis, we were hitting on all cylinders.”

Democrats take issue with statements like Portman’s, pointing out that Ohio actually had lost jobs in 2019 before the virus struck.

In once again defying several polls that had Biden leading — albeit within their margins of error — the Trump campaign projection of an Election Day margin of over 400,000 net votes in the Buckeye State turned out quite accurate.

Trump easily prevailed despite the Biden team obviously believing the state was within reach. The candidate himself revamped his schedule to make a quick stop Monday in Cleveland, while Doug Emhoff, husband of running mate Sen. Kamala Harris of California, visited Columbus on Election Day.

An extensive AP VoteCast survey had indicated an extremely close contest in Ohio. For example, Trump was leading by 9 percentage points among men, but males make up only 47% of expected voters. Biden was ahead by 8 points with female voters, but women make up 53% of the anticipated electorate.

AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for Fox News, NPR, PBS NewsHour, Univision News, USA Today Network, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press.

As expected, Biden did very well as the tabulation of early votes was rolled out first. But the early results showed hints of trouble for the Democrat: turnout in some of the state’s urban areas may have fallen short of expectations for the challenger.

Also as anticipated, Trump did very well in rural areas.

Trump’s margin is large enough to withstand erosion as valid absentee ballots received after Election Day and provisional votes are added to the total in coming days. With the Election Day county almost finalized, the secretary of state put about 310,000 potential votes in that category.

Trump actually improved over his 2016 victory percentage in 67 counties.

Biden fell short of his needed margins in heavily Democratic urban counties. For example, he’s only received about 4,000 more votes in Cuyahoga County, where Hillary Clinton was widely derided for underperforming — especially among Black voters.

The Democrat actually lost ground in Lucas County.

The two campaigns took opposite approaches to Ohio. Trump relied on his traditional large rallies despite the COVID-19 pandemic, while Biden depended on a huge advantage in ads on Ohio TV stations, along with a scattering of socially distanced events.

Jessie Balmert of the Cincinnati Enquirer contributed to this story.

drowland@dispatch.com

@darreldrowland

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