We hear it virtually every election from both sides of the aisle: “This is the most hotly contested election of our generation”. Media outlets love to recycle these types of comments and of course hold on to ratings in the process. However, once again this election outcome will be decided by no more than a few swing states. News readers will hear more talk about states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina and how they can very well determine who will end up in the Oval Office. With all this information overload, it is natural to forget exactly why each respective state finds itself under the electoral microscope.
So the American writers at the Political Bouillon got together and decided to write this article. Below you will find all the key swing states with a brief explanation of recent polling outcomes and why the respective states are so important for this election cycle. Hope you enjoy this piece!
-The Political Bouillon Team-
Florida (29 Electoral Votes)
There is no coincidence that the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa, Florida. Representing 29 electoral votes, Florida is the most important swing state and could single-handedly determine the outcome of the entire election. Floridians have picked the winning candidate 9 times out of the last 10 elections. Yet, Florida is also known for it’s razor-sharp voter margins and somewhat of an anomaly in terms of demographic and geographic voting behavior. For example, in Sarasota County, a highly polarized electorate, John McCain defeated Obama by just 211 votes…out of a total of 208,005 votes! Statewide, Obama won Florida by just a 2% margin. Florida is not a “true” red state. Looking at the electoral makeup of the state, readers will notice blue (Democrat) largely along the densely populated Southeast coast and urban centers with a solid red (Republican) in the center of the state. Romney’s base is the large, retired elderly population which traditionally votes Republican. Obama is hoping on a strong Latino turnout like in 2008, notably in the Miami-Dade area of Southeast Florida which helped him win the state. The most important geographic area is in the “I-4 Corridor” representing voters along Interstate-4 which runs from Tampa to Orlando. This area will be the key decider who wins the state as it is the most volatile region with a notably large Puerto Rican population. However, an increase in the Hispanic vote in Florida does not equal vote for Obama, compared to their Democrat counterparts in the Southwestern parts of the United States. Polls consistently show an even, if not, slight bend towards support for Republicans among these Florida Hispanics which adds even more fuel to the uncertain outcome.
Daily polls show Obama leading one day and losing the next. As of October 30th, the CNN/Gallup poll has Romney with a 1 point advantage over Obama. The Rasmussen poll indicates a 2 point lead for Romney and SurveyUSA has a dead tie at 47% support for both candidates. However, a recent poll by NBC/Wall Street Journal (November 3) has Obama leading 49% to 47%. Overall, no polling company or media outlet will ever be able to declare a winner for Florida until the ballots are actually counted.
Ohio (18 Electoral Votes)
With eighteen electoral votes, Ohio is one of the most important swing states. Since 1960, it has only sided with the loser of a presidential election once (it voted red for Nixon instead of Kennedy’s blue in the election of 1960). It usually reflects the closeness of the presidential races up until the very last moment – in 2004 it had George W Bush beating John Kerry by 2% just days before the election. Ohio is thus considered by Republican and Democratic strategists alike as the state to win. One of the factors that will be decisive in this election over which way Ohio will swing is its high concentration of coal plants in the eastern part of the state. Voters there, while routinely Democratic, are upset with Obama over his administration’s decision to use less coal for power plants and to seek alternate, cleaner energy sources. Some have deemed this a “war on coal” and are calling for his “firing” because of it. Meanwhile, Romney is seen as much more coal-friendly candidate.
Whether or not this specific interest leads Ohio to turn from blue to red will be seen on election night. Currently, most polls have Obama and Romney locked in a dead heat, with a few favoring Obama over Romney. The recent poll by NBC/Wall Street Journal (November 3) has Obama leading 51% to 45%
Virginia (13 Electoral Votes)
Part of the “Big Three”, with thirteen electoral votes, and currently undecided, Virginia is of particular importance to the Romney/Ryan camp. For them, victory would be very difficult without this state, and almost impossibly out of reach if Obama can secure Ohio.
Before Obama’s victory in the Old Dominion in 2008, the only Democrat to take the state was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. This new found volatility is due to the changes in demographics, especially in Northern Virginia, which changes the overall voter makeup. Virginia has an important minority vote as well as a growing young, educated, white population in the North. These trends usually point to an advantage for the Democrats.
However, since the election in 2008, the Republicans have made a comeback in the battleground state. Bob McDonnell defeated Creigh Deeds in 2009, pushing the Democrats out of the Governor’s Office. Running on the slogan “Bob’s for Jobs”, this shows that an important part of the electorate in Virginia isn’t too impressed with Obama’s handling of economic recovery.
As of October 31, Real Clear Politics polling shows Romney ahead of Obama by 0.5% in the “purple” state. The race in Virginia will definitely be one to watch come election night.
North Carolina (15 Electoral Votes)
North Carolina has an extremely interesting electoral history. From the time it joined Confederation until the passage of civil-rights legislation in the mid-1960s, North Carolina voted exclusively Democrat. As part of the Republican southern strategy, however, it has voted Republican since then due to the uneasiness of white voters in an increasingly multicultural United States. However, its growing concentration of African-Americans finally turned North Carolina blue for Obama in 2008. Whether or not this demographic makes it to the polls with the same enthusiasm as before depends on the early electoral turnout and the ability of Democratic grassroots campaigns to ensure that low-income Democrats disillusioned by several years of recession vote.
Most polls have Romney leading Obama by up to eight points, with a margin of error of +/- 4%.
Colorado (9 Electoral Votes)
Colorado certainly comes by the moniker “swing state” honestly. Its diversity in topography and climate is mirrored in its demography. With Democrats concentrated mostly in Denver, the student city of Boulder, and a few sparsely populated ski resort towns, Colorado has voted in favor of seventeen Democratic presidential candidates in the last century. Meanwhile, Republicans have found a stronghold in more conservative Eastern Plains and Colorado Springs.
Twelve Republican candidates were awarded Colorado’s vote in the last 100 years. In 2008, the Centennial State sided with then-Senator Barack Obama. Though current polls vary, most have projected a narrow Romney victory. The win would give the Romney camp 9 of the coveted electoral votes.
Michigan (16 Electoral Votes)
Mitt Romney’s birthplace and his family’s rise to political prominence (his father was Governor of the state from 1963-1969). Although his campaign likes to play out the image of Mr. Romney growing up in the state and understands the problems in order to get votes, it’s important to note that he will lose Massachusetts by an large margin where he held his gubernatorial office from
2003-2007. The key to this state revolves around the auto industry. The state directly employs 1 of every 4.5 auto workers in the United States, not to mention the thousands of indirect jobs with parts suppliers and R&D research firms working for the large auto companies like Ford, GM and DaimlerChrylser which have their HQs in the state. Obama has a stronger case to win this state because of his support for the auto industry bailout during the worst of the Great Recession. Governor Romney has previously criticized and opposed Obama’s decision to use taxpayer dollars to keep alive an industry that should have gone through bankruptcy procedures for proper restructuring. However, Romney still has a chance to win the state due to a stubbornly high unemployment rate (9.3%, which is 2 % above the national average). His campaign is already buying radio and TV airtime criticizing the Obama administration for failing to stop the outsourcing of crucial manufacturing jobs. If Governor Romney wins, it will be the first time the state turns red since 1988.
As of October 31, Obama has a slight lead over Romney but the gap is closing quickly. The Detroit News poll has Obama at 48% and Romney at 45%. The Gravis Marketing poll has the gap even narrower with Obama barely holding on with 46% to Romney’s 44% support. It seems the Romney campaign strategy of blaming Obama for a loss of jobs in the state is paying off.
Wisconsin (10 Electoral Votes)
Wisconsin and its ten electoral votes has only recently been considered a real “swing” state. This is because the state has a pretty long history of voting Democratic. There are a few scenarios where Wisconsin could decide the winner, but even those are a stretch. One would be if each candidate wins the other candidate’s key undecided states, then the race could depend on Wisconsin. This outcome would favor Obama, since the Democrats have consistently been polling ahead of the Republicans in this newbie battleground state.
Real Clear Politics poll average puts Obama ahead by a margin of 5 points in Wisconsin since the start of October, but November saw the Republicans significantly reduce the gap.
Iowa (6 Electoral Votes)
With less than a week to go, Iowa appears to be veering towards the direction of President Obama. Current polls suggest that Obama has gained a 4 point lead on Romney, the validity of this predicted lead will certainly be tested come Tuesday. However, Romney leads with the state’s independent voters by whopping 12 point margin. Obama won the state by 150,000 votes in 2008, so, despite Romney’s advantage with the independents, it would seem the Obama campaign has much to be optimistic about.
Pennsylvania (20 Electoral Votes)
Like Michigan, Pennsylvania has not gone Republican since 1988. Obama has somewhat of a more consistent and stable lead over Romney in this election race. However, this blue-collar state in the Rust Belt is seeing a shift towards Romney due to a high unemployment (8.2%) and a continuing decline in the heavy manufacturing industry.
As of October 31, the Franklin & Marshall poll has Obama at 48% and Romney at 44%. The Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll has Obama at 50% and Romney at 45%
– Alexander Gardinier, Clara Bonnor, Alana Jesse & Alex Moon for the Bouillon