Trump takes Ohio: NBC News projections

Trump wins Ohio -NBC News

The polls have closed in Ohio, and NBC News projects Donald Trump to be the winner.

Trump widened his lead after taking the key battleground state and its 18 electoral votes. Hillary Clinton eked out a win in Virginia and captured Colorado.

All eyes were fixed on Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — crucial swing states where Trump and Clinton are running neck-and-neck.

Trump's apparent victory in Ohio is somewhat surprising when one looks at how Buckeye State voters evaluated the two candidates. When asked who is qualified to serve as president, half of Ohio voters said Clinton was qualified, compared to 4 in 10 saying Trump. Some 15 percent of Ohio voters said neither one was qualified.

When asked who has the temperament to serve effectively as president, more said only Clinton has the temperament — 44 percent vs. 34 percent for Trump.

In terms of honesty and trustworthiness, both candidates did poorly, but Trump had an edge over Clinton in Ohio. Thirty-six percent of Ohioans said only Trump was honest and trustworthy, compared with 29 percent for Clinton. Close to a third of Ohio voters felt that neither candidate is honest and trustworthy.

Overall, it appears voters in the Buckeye State — like those in many parts of the country — have considerable reservations about both candidates. But in Ohio, confidence in Trump's ability to handle the economy, on which he has a 4-point advantage, outweighed voters' concerns about his personal shortcomings.

Another reason may be voters' concerns about the economy. More than half of Ohio voters said that the economy is the most important issue facing the country, NBC News exit poll results showed, and 49 percent say Trump would handle the economy better.

An old Election Day saying had Trump and Clinton spending millions on ads in the Buckeye State this election season: "As Ohio goes, so goes the nation."

Since the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, only three presidents (and no Republican candidates) have gone to the White House without winning Ohio. Both candidates knew the stakes this year, and it showed in their ad spending in the battleground state.

According to data from Advertising Analytics, Clinton and her allies have spent more than $46 million on ads in Ohio, while Trump and groups supporting him spent a little over $19 million in the state where the Republican National Convention was held.

Despite being outspent on Ohio's TV airwaves, on Election Day, Trump maintained a 3.5-point lead over Hillary Clinton in an average of recent state polls, according to RealClearPolitics.

As of Nov. 7, however, Ohio's Democratic-affiliated voters cast a greater number of early ballots than their Republican-affiliated counterparts, according to TargetSmart voter file data obtained by the NBC News Data Analytics Lab. The data showed more than 209,000 early votes had been cast in the state.

There was, however, a decrease in early voting in Cuyahoga County, which is the home of Cleveland and widely considered a Democratic stronghold in the state. The country saw 218,711 early votes cast this year, down from more than 250,000 in the 2012 general election.

One bellwether could be Montgomery County — where Dayton is located — which not only went to President Barack Obama in the past two elections, but also reflected the statewide margins of both races.