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. These states are where the majority of the campaigning takes place for both parties.
States that consistently express a preference for either the Democratic or Republican candidate are usually referred to as blue states and red states, respectively, while swing states are 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.
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.
Swing states take on increased significance because most states award their electoral college votes on a winner-take-all basis. Therefore, 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 two times (2008, in Nebraska and 2016, in Maine) did a district go to a candidate other than the statewide winner.
In 2020, the six closest swing states are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Trump received 49% of the vote in Arizona in 2016, a plurality slightly higher than Clinton's total of 45%. Polling as of late August 2020 shows a close race with Joe Biden slightly ahead. A Trafalgar poll conducted in early August showed Trump one point ahead of Biden.
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).
Florida was crucial to Trump's victory in 2016, when he won by just 1% of the vote. Polling as of late August 2020 shows Joe Biden leading in the state by approximately four points, though two of the last three polls in RCP's average were conducted by Democrat-affiliated polling agencies.
Trump won Michigan by an extremely narrow margin in 2016, and polling had showed Biden in the lead, but by a margin that reduced during the course of summer, until August 28, 2020, when a poll released by Trafalgar Group gave Trump a one and a half point lead.
No excuse is required for an absentee ballot in the state.
Polling is close but implies that Trump may have established a small lead. The Democrats in total received more votes in their Presidential primary than what the Republicans received, though the Democrat primary was more competitive, as Joe Biden received only 43% of the Democrats' vote (569,000) while Trump received 94% (747,000) with little serious competition.
Change Research has shown a close race in Pennsylvania since mid-July. Center for Politics wrote an article about the political situation of the state, emphasizing the state's shift to Trump in 2016. The article referred to Trump's "new coalition," comprising largely of small towns and cities outside of Philadelphia's metropolitan area, which had leaned Democrat in the past but where Republicans have been making significant gains. The article claimed that Biden may be more appealing to those Democrat/former Democrat voters than Hillary Clinton.
In a statewide judicial election in early 2020, Republican Daniel Kelly lost by 11 points to Democrat Jill Karofsky.
Center for Politics has called Wisconsin "2020’s most vital state" and highlighted the importance of the cancellation of the live Democratic National Convention, which was scheduled to take place in the state. Trafalgar Group showed Trump leading Biden by one point in Wisconsin in a poll conducted from August 14-23. A poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports on September 1st and 2nd showed Joe Biden ahead of Trump by eight points, 51-43, in the state. At the time this gave Biden a lead approximately four points higher than that of the RealClearPolitics average.
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- See also: Endorsements 2012
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.||18|
|Iowa||Leaning to Obama.||9.5%||Mitt Romney leads Obama 47% to 44% as of September 2012.||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%.||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%.||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; however, as of September 13, 2012, Obama held a 2-point lead, 48% to 46%.||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||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%.||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%.||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%.||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.||16|
|New Mexico||15%||Obama holds a substantial lead over Romney, 52% to 38%, according to Rasmussen's last poll, taken August 21, 2012.||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. As of September 21, 2012, Obama leads Romney by a 51% to 39% margin.||20|
Effect on Policy
Swing state politics is having an enormous influence on policy: Obama's abrupt change in deportation policy was probably the reason Mitt Romney reduced Obama's lead in the swing state of Colorado, and narrowed the lead in Nevada and Virginia, all of which have large Hispanic populations.
2008 Swing States
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- Analysis of Electoral College and popular vote
- July polling: Romney leads Obama, 51 percent to 43 percent in 15 swing states
- 270towin Arizona, retrieved August 28, 2020
- RealClearPolitics Arizona, retrieved August 28, 2020
- Trafalgar Arizona Poll, retrieved August 28, 2020
- 270towin Florida, retrieved August 28, 2020
- RealClearPolitics Florida, retrieved August 28, 2020
- RealClearPolitics Michigan, retrieved August 28, 2020
- Trafalgar Poll August Michigan, retrieved August 29, 2020
- FiveThirtyEight Project: How to Vote 2020, retrieved August 28, 2020
- RealClearPolitics North Carolina, retrieved August 28, 2020
- Politico Election Results North Carolina, retrieved August 28, 2020
- RealClearPolitics Pennsylvania, retrieved August 28, 2020
- Cook, Rhodes. "States of Play: Pennsylvania" Sabato's Crystal Ball, retrieved August 28, 2020
- "Pennsylvania: Trump 46%, Biden 46%" Rasmussen Reports, retrieved September 7, 2020
- Coleman, J. Miles. "States of Play: Wisconsin" Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, retrieved August 28, 2020
- RealClearPolitics Wisconsin, retrieved August 28, 2020
- Trafalgar Poll, retrieved August 28, 2020
- Rasmussen Reports September 1-2 Wisconsin retrieved September 7, 2020
- Rasmussen Reports Twitter, retrieved September 7, 2020
- Election 2012: Ohio President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: Iowa President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: Colorado President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: Virginia President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: Florida President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: New Hampshire President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: North Carolina President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: Nevada President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: Wisconsin President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: Michigan President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012
- Election 2012: New Mexico President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Quinnipiac poll done late September 2011
- Election 2012: Pennsylvania President rasmussenreports.com, retrieved September 21, 2012