US Election 2020: The Swing States
What Are Swing States?
Swing states are those states at an election that are, in essence, competitive and can be won by either party. They are also known as ‘battleground states‘. The winner-take-all nature of presidential state contests mean candidates follow a methodology of focusing solely on winning ‘winnable’ contests and thus put resources, time and money into winning swing states.
Winner-take-all means that winning by a single vote in a state will win all Electoral College votes from that state. That makes swing states the decider of any election. It also means that the candidate that wins the popular vote, may not in fact win the election.
Swing states can shift at each election cycle based on issues, the candidates and changing demographics but typically come from the same handful of states from election-to-election though they can shift markedly across generations.
It is also important to note that close results are not always indicative of being a swing state. This is true in landslide election victories where close results are more reflective of the last bastion than a path to electoral success.
Which States Are Safe Republican States?
Historical electoral maps reveal trends over time. Republicans traditionally can rely on The South, the Great Plains, Mountain States and Alaska. This is known as the Red Wall. The Republican Party has won 13 states at the last seven elections including Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Kansas. These states account for 102 Electoral College votes.
The Republican Party has won a further five states in six of the last seven elections including Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina though the former two are now considered swing or potential swing states. There are nine Republican voting states that have stayed loyal to the GOP at every election since 1964.
Red Wall States: Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska.Video: Electoral College & Swing States Explained
Which States are Safe Democrat States?
The states consistently won by the Democratic Party are known as the Blue Wall. They include areas along the West Coast, the Northeast and the Great Lakes. Over the last seven presidential elections, the Blue Wall is viewed as consisting of 18 states and the District of Columbia. These include California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey. These 18 states and district account for 242 of the 270 votes required to win an election.
In the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the latter managed to breach three states that were expected to be won by the democratic nominee. They were Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania which account for a combined 46 Electoral votes. Voting Republican is a sign that working class voters were willing to abandon the Democrats. Minnesota hold the longest streak of not voting Republican, last voting for Richard Nixon in 1972. They have voted Republican just three times since 1928.
Blue Wall States: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and Delaware.
Which States Have Historically Been Swinging States?
Swing states change over time. Many former swing states are no longer that. In the 1960 Presidential Election between Kennedy and Nixon, now-safe Democrat state Illinois and now-safe Republican state Texas were considered key swing states. In 1988, safe Northeastern Democrat voting states such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were key swing states that led George Bush to the White House.
For nearly 60 years, Ohio has been considered the bellwether and the key swing state. It has voted with the winning President since 1960. Due to its sharp move to the right in 2016 though, Ohio is no longer considered a serious swing state. It is a similar story with Iowa.
One state that continues to be a key swing state is Florida, that has been close for the last two decades.
Other states that have historically been swing states in recent elections include North Carolina, Colorado and Arizona.
Which Swing States are the Most Valuable?
Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are the four states that are likely to determine the election. That is because they are swing states with a large number of Electoral College votes.
Florida holds 29 Electoral College votes. It has gone with the President every year from 1964 bar 1992 and is typically very close. This is a must-win for Trump but Biden leads in the polls.
Pennsylvania carries 20 Electoral College votes. Biden is well clear in polling and it seems this traditional Democrat state will revert. No state is more important to this election. Biden likely cannot win without it.
Michigan holds 16 Electoral College votes. Michigan appears likely to go back to the Democrats but it will need higher urban turnout than in 2016 when Trump pulled the state off.
Wisconsin has 10 Electoral College votes. Biden holds a commanding lead in polls and this is a Blue Wall seat that will need to be won back if the Democrats are to take the Presidency.
Ohio holds 18 Electoral College votes but appears likely to stick with Trump and is not considered a key swing state.
Other Swing States To Watch
Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, New Hampshire and Minnesota are other key states to watch in 2020. Minnesota has long been a Democrat stronghold but has been moving to the right since 2004. New Hampshire just held on for the Democrats in 2016. Arizona, Georgia and Colorado have been trending towards the Democrats. North Carolina is a perennial swing state.
Who’s Ahead In The National Polls
Leading into the presidential debates, Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden had a significant lead according to the election polls. History suggests that the polls are not the be-all and end-all. They got it wrong it 2016 and there are increasing suspicions of pollster faked data in the upcoming election.
The last three incumbent president’s have all won re-election, namely Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton. The outcome of the 2020 election is a real toss-up for a number of reasons including the coronavirus pandemic. It is looking likely that there will be very few percentage points between the two candidates with the polling averages expected to tighten as we approach election day. The outcome of the election may also be delayed due to COVID-19 with millions expected to cast their vote via post.
It will be an election race like no other.
For news, webinars, articles and analysis, visit our dedicated US Elections 2020 Page or sign up to our exclusive webinar series.[webinars]