A Shift in Battlegrounds

In recent presidential elections, we’ve gotten used to the fact that it all comes down to states like Ohio and Florida. We tend to not pay much attention to what is going on in deeply red or blue states because everyone knows the outcomes. The closer the election gets – the more we focus on the battleground states. But this year there has been a pretty big shift in which states are included on that list. So let’s take a look. I’ll be using the polling averages from Real Clear Politics – which tend to be the most conservative.

First of all, there is a group of states that have sometimes been included, but really don’t belong there anymore. Clinton has big leads in:

Michigan (+7)
Pennsylvania (+9)
Virginia (+11)
Colorado (+10)

Next come the traditional battlegrounds where Clinton has a small lead:

Ohio (+2)
Florida (+4)
North Carolina (+2)
Nevada (+2)

But the real battlegrounds – where it is not clear who is leading – are new to the list. And both of them used to be considered red states.

Georgia (Clinton + 0.3)
Arizona (Trump + 0.3)

Here is where it gets interesting. If you include the non-battleground blue states that Democrats have historically won with wins in that first four (where Clinton has big leads), she’s already at 272 electoral votes. Did you see what we did there? Clinton could lose Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Nevada and still win. That is how overwhelming the Democratic majority is in the electoral college right now. The much-ballyhooed battlegrounds are gravy and – at least in the era of Trump – Democrats are starting to play on Republican turf (Georgia and Arizona). Beyond that, states like Texas and South Carolina are trending towards being battlegrounds.

Certainly some of this is related to a distaste for Donald Trump. But it is also the beginning of a big shift in how demographics will change the electoral map. The new battlegrounds are states where we also see significant increases in the number of people of color. Trump’s insistence on a strategy of ramping up the white vote combined with Clinton’s excellent work with people of color is accelerating a shift in battlegrounds that was already underway.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .