Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Importance of Ohio

I've got to admit, over the course of my lifetime, I've rarely given the U.S. state of Ohio a second thought. That's not due to anything I have against it -- in fact, over the course of the same lifetime, I've had a number of highly regarded friends who hail from the Buckeye State -- but because despite being the 7th most populous of the 50 United States (according to its Wikipedia page), Ohio is generally not one of the more high-profile ones, especially abroad. As the Great Lakes states in its vicinity go, Michigan has always gotten a lot more play!

So it's been something of a surprise this Election Day to hear so many political pundits identifying Ohio as the key swing state in the 2012 U.S. Presidential race. To hear them tell it, the winner (of Ohio) would likely take all (the election). Wasn't that honor traditionally supposed to go to my home state of Florida?

Interestingly, less than a week ago, I met Matthew, an Ohioan who has been living in Asia for more than a decade but has been settled in Singapore for the last two years. So many coincidences!

"Let me guess, you're from Youngstown," I asked him the second time we saw each other. Honestly, I actually didn't expect him to be. I was only half-joking. Ever since my days as an editor at Teen People, where we once gave coverage to an aspiring boy band named Youngstown, after its city of origin, Youngstown (the city, not the group) has been the first thing I think about whenever anyone mentions Ohio.

"How did you know that? I thought nobody outside of Ohio had ever heard of Youngstown." Matthew was completely in shock and even more in awe.

"Well..." I tried to think of a clever response, one that didn't involve a failed boy band from the turn of the century. "Are there any other cities in Ohio?"

Matthew was shocked by my ignorance, and by the time he was through with me, so was I. "Let's see, there's Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton, and the capital, Columbus."

I'd thought of Cincinnati and Cleveland immediately after I'd feigned ignorance, but how could I forget Toledo and Columbus? Thanks to Matthew's enlightenment, even before I started closely following the election coverage, I was beginning to realize that Ohio is a much bigger deal than I'd thought. I can't even name six cities in many other states off the top of my head.

And now that I think about it, I've actually been to Ohio, exactly once. In 1995, when I did a feature story for People magazine on Babyface, I traveled with him and his band from Detroit to Cleveland in his tour bus. I don't remember much about Ohio, or Cleveland, other than that I was happy to board the plane to fly back to New York City after one night there, but that was more because I missed my boyfriend at the time than anything having to do with the city.

Though Ohio may not have ended up playing as pivotal a role in Barack Obama's re-election as everyone was claiming it would (turns out he still would have won without it), I'll never ever underestimate it again.

Ohio in Pop Culture

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

WKRP in Cincinnati

Hot in Cleveland

 "Ohio" Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

"Toledo" Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach

The Oh in Ohio

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