Swing state

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See early voting for an analysis of voting in swing states.

Swing states, also called "battleground states," are states in which neither the Republican nor Democratic candidate has a clear majority of the voters' support prior to a Presidential election, and therefore could "swing" the presidential election outcome in either direction. They are also known as "battleground states" because they are where the majority of the campaigning takes place for both parties. Since states that consistently express a preference for either the Democratic or Republican candidate are usually referred to as blue states and red states, respectively, these states are also called "purple states" in order to highlight their mixed demographic nature. Hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads by Super PACs are spent almost entirely in swing states, where the presidential election outcome is expected to be decided.

These states take on increased significance because most states award their electoral college votes on a winner-take-all basis. So, if one candidate gains a slim majority of the votes from a swing state, all of the electoral college votes are awarded to that candidate, despite the votes of the other 49% of the state's voters. Maine and Nebraska are the only two current exceptions; both states split their electoral vote between those representing congressional districts (the winner of the district receives the vote) and those representing Senators (the winner of the statewide vote receives these two votes). The two states can have "swing congressional districts"; however, only one time (2008, in Nebraska) did a district go to a candidate other than the statewide winner.

A notable example of a swing state is Florida, where the southern portion of the state is solidly Democratic (excluding areas with large Cuban populations which historically vote Republican), the central portion leans Democratic, while the northern (especially among the many military bases) and southwestern portions are solidly Republican. The swing state phenomenon was most notable in the 2000 Presidential Election, where the mainstream media called the state for Al Gore (before polls had closed in the Florida panhandle; as that area is solidly Republican some believe this was done intentionally to suppress the vote), only to have to walk their initial predictions back, then the country had to wait weeks before the winner was declared (George W. Bush, by a mere 537 votes). Because of that, and the normally warm weather during the campaign season (where the weather is cold in many other swing states) Florida is a popular place for Presidential campaigning.


In 2020, the six swing states are:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin

In the 2018 mid-terms, Florida voters replaced a Democratic Senator (Bill Nelson) with a Republican one (the term-limited Governor, Rick Scott), and maintained the Governor's office for the Republicans (Ron DeSantis).


Here are the key swing states for the Presidential Election 2016, color-coded to show which party carried them (red denotes Republican, while blue denotes Democratic):


Here are the key swing states for the Presidential Election 2012, for a total of 100 electoral votes, all of which were won by Obama in 2008:[1]

A total of 270 electoral votes are needed to win, and Obama won with 95 additional electoral votes in 2008. Assuming that Republicans win Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, this entire election could be decided in only Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio.

State Expected winner 2012 Margin of Obama's win in 2008 Indicators Electoral Votes in 2012
Ohio Leaning to Obama. 4.6% Ohio voted Republican in the 2010 elections, but the public unions repealed the collective bargaining reforms by popular vote. This indicates heavy union influence, a plus for Obama as unions vote heavily Democratic. As of September 13, 2012, Romney (46%) and Obama (47%) were virtually tied.[2] 18
Iowa Leaning to Obama. 9.5% Mitt Romney leads Obama 47% to 44% as of September 2012.[3] 6
Colorado Toss-up 9% Pro-life, pro-Christian Tim Tebow's phenomenal success for the Denver Broncos helped improve the culture there. As of September 2012, Romney leads Obama, 47% to 45%.[4] 9
Virginia Leaning to Romney. 6% Elected a Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, in 2009. In the 2011 elections the Republican party took the state senate, giving them control over both houses of the legislature. A Rasmussen Reports survey of Virginia taken September 14 gave Obama a 1-point lead, 49% to 48%.[5] 13
Florida Likely Romney 2.8% Elected a Republican for both governor and Senate in the 2010 midterm elections; however, Governor Rick Scott is currently (August 2012) very unpopular in the state. Obama's approval in the state is below 50%. Florida is a must win for Romney;[6] however, as of September 13, 2012, Obama held a 2-point lead, 48% to 46%.[7] 29
New Hampshire Leaning to Obama. 9.6% Romney has some roots here and was governor of nearby Massachusetts. He holds a 3-point lead (48% to 45%) over Obama, as of September 19, 2012[8] 4
North Carolina Likely Romney, due to Obama's support of same-sex marriage. 0.3% The current Democratic governor, Bev Perdue, is highly unpopular and polling badly, especially in the wake of recent scandals among her staff. Rasmussen's poll on September 14, 2012 had Romney at 51% to Obama's 45%.[9] 15
Nevada Leaning to Obama. 12.5% A recent special election for the state's 2nd congressional district was predicted to be competitive but resulted in a decisive victory for Republican Mark Amodei. Harry Reid won reelection in 2010 despite Tea Party opposition, but this may have been due to discrepancies and corruption in the voting process. As of September 20, 2012, Obama leads Romney 47% to 45%.[10] 6
Wisconsin Toss-up 13.9% Elected Republicans to the state legislature, governor's office, and Senate in 2010. Despite much complaining by Democrats and their labor union allies, they failed to recall enough republican legislators for a majority, failed to defeat Justice David Prosser in the Supreme Court election. The final blow that put Wisconsin in play for the 2012 election was when Governor Scott Walker defeated his recall election by a wider margin than he was originally elected in 2010. The selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate may also help him in Wisconsin and vie-presidential nominees tend to boost the ticket in their home state. While Romney did receive a bump after his choice of Ryan, as of September 2012, he was slightly trailing Obama, 46% to 49%.[11] 10

Additional states that Obama carried by a wide margin in 2008 might become possibilities for a Romney victory in 2012 if he improves in the polls:

State Margin of Obama's win in 2008 Indicators Electoral Votes in 2012
Michigan 16% Mitt Romney, though not ideal for the average conservative, grew up in Michigan and could put it into play. His father, George Romney, served as governor of the state. Obama is ahead of Romney 48% to 42%, as of Rasmussen's last poll, taken in July 2012.[12] 16
New Mexico 15% Obama holds a substantial lead over Romney, 52% to 38%, according to Rasmussen's last poll, taken August 21, 2012.[13] 5
Pennsylvania 10% Obama's has had high disapproval ratings here: 54%, and Republicans swept the elections in 2010; also, Obama polled poorly here in 2008 against Hillary Clinton.[14] As of September 21, 2012, Obama leads Romney by a 51% to 39% margin.[15] 20

Effect on Policy

Swing state politics is having an enormous influence on policy: Obama's abrupt change in deportation policy was probably due to how Mitt Romney has erased Obama's lead in the key swing state of Colorado, and narrowed the lead in Nevada and Virginia, all of which have large Hispanic populations.[16]

2008 Swing States

See also

External links


  1. https://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/05/26/national/a080145D80.DTL#ixzz1w1roz7XG
  2. Election 2012: Ohio President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  3. Election 2012: Iowa President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  4. Election 2012: Colorado President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  5. Election 2012: Virginia President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  6. http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/sept-11-florida-a-true-must-win-for-romney/
  7. Election 2012: Florida President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  8. Election 2012: New Hampshire President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  9. Election 2012: North Carolina President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  10. Election 2012: Nevada President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  11. Election 2012: Wisconsin President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  12. Election 2012: Michigan President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  13. Election 2012: New Mexico President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012.
  14. Quinnipiac poll done late September 2011
  15. Election 2012: Pennsylvania President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
  16. https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/233037-obama-takes-action-on-deportations-as-romney-closes-gap-in-swing-states