Ohio 1st District
From its seven hills, Cincinnati looks down on the curves of the Ohio River. It was Ohio’s first major metropolis and a heavily German beehive of riverboats and sausage factories, known in the 1850s as Porkopolis. In the 19th century, Cincinnati was the nation’s fourth-largest city and at the outbreak of the Civil War, it was a chief destination for slaves on the Underground Railroad. The city has long given off an air of the recent past. Mark Twain once said he’d like to be there for the apocalypse because everything in Cincinnati is 10 years behind. Growing slowly over many decades, Cincinnati’s long-settled good looks and urbanity are somehow consistent with its natural terrain: the bottomlands along the river, the hills and rolling terrain above. In the middle of Cincinnati is Mill Creek, lined with factories. On the hills to the west, above the restored Union Terminal housing several museums, are the modest streetcar suburbs of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th. On Mount Adams and toward the northeast are a string of affluent neighborhoods, with stately mansions like the William Howard Taft house, and the comfortable Tudors and colonials of the 20th century bourgeoisie—Reform Jewish as well as WASP and German. Families have lived for generations in the same neighborhoods, though typically not in ethnic enclaves.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Cincinnati was the site of great innovations: the first iron suspension bridge, built in 1867, which connects Cincinnati to northern Kentucky and was designed by John Roebling, who later built the Brooklyn Bridge; the first baseball team, the Red Stockings, who began playing in 1869; and the country’s leading Reform Jewish seminary, Hebrew Union College, opened in 1875. It spawned not flashy but solid industries, including America’s biggest concentration of machine tool makers, the industry now a fraction of its once-robust size, and the Procter & Gamble soap business, with its twin-towered headquarters at the edge of downtown. Its Ivorydale manufacturing facility has made soap since the 1880s. Downtown Cincinnati’s spruced-up Fountain Square shows off well-maintained skyscrapers of the past plus a revival of museums, arts institutions and retail shops. Its first-class restaurants still attract a dressy clientele. Old ethnic neighborhoods on the west side, crowded with brick row houses on steep hills, keep their thick local accents and special local foods, from German sauerbrauten to Cincinnati chili. Baseball’s career-hitting (and, alas, sports-betting) leader Pete Rose grew up here, and many Catholic schools remain. Yet the city has faced tough times. Crime is a problem and there has been flight to the suburbs. With fewer recent immigrants than comparable northern cities, Cincinnati’s population declined in the 1990s, although it made modest gains since 2000.
The 1st Congressional District of Ohio includes almost all of Cincinnati, except for parts of its affluent eastern edge, plus most of the middle-class suburbs that cling to the woody hills west of Interstate 71 and south of I-275. It covers the southwest quarter of Butler County plus the western parts of Hamilton County all the way to the Indiana border, including North Bend, the home of President William Henry Harrison. City elections here were for years competitive between old-line Republicans and a combination of Democrats and Charterites (the latter started by Charles Taft, liberal brother of GOP Sen. Robert Taft Sr. and great-uncle of recent Republican Gov. Bob Taft). As its population has declined, Cincinnati has become noticeably more Democratic, but the suburbs, which now cast more votes than the city, remain heavily Republican. This makes the 1st a closely divided district. Republican George W. Bush carried the district with just 51% of the vote in 2000 and 2004 presidential elections and Democratic nominee Barack Obama won it with 55% in 2008.