Swinging Swing States

Anyone who was paying attention to elections in the early 2000’s will remember Tim Russert with his little white board explaining that it all came down to what happened in Ohio and Florida. Keeping track of the swing states was a lot easier when those two dominated the prognostications.

What Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012 was widen the field by putting states like Virginia and North Carolina (the latter of which Al Gore lost by 13 points) in play. As I pointed out last week, it is now possible for Clinton to lose both Ohio and Florida and still win this election in 2016. Those two states are extremely close right now with Trump leading in Ohio by 1.2 in the RCP polling average and Florida by 1.0. In case that last one has you panicked, keep this in mind.

At this point in the election, pollsters are reporting on “likely voters.” Because they don’t have track records of who those voters are in the growing Latino population, states like Florida, Nevada and yes…even Texas, are going to be difficult to predict accurately.

Beyond that, it is interesting to note where else the two candidates are separated by less than 2 percentage points. In addition to Florida and Ohio, they include: Nevada, North Carolina and Arizona. Keep in mind that Romney won Arizona by 11 points in 2012. As another sign of how things are changing, right now Trump is doing better in Iowa (ahead by 4.3) than he is in Georgia (ahead by 4.2). The swing states are, in fact swinging. Perhaps it won’t be a factor in 2016, but Mitt Romney won Texas by almost 16 points. Right now the RCP polling average has Trump up 7.2. Although it is only one poll, this one found some fascinating results.

Less than eight weeks before the November election, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has a 7-point lead over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas among likely voters, but only a 1-point lead among all registered voters, according to results of the Texas Lyceum poll released Thursday…

The larger the electorate, the better for Democrats. The Lyceum poll found that in a four-way race, Clinton has a 4-point advantage over Trump among registered voters in a state that hasn’t voted Democratic in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter narrowly beat President Gerald Ford in 1976.

In other words, the state of Texas might be pushing its way into swing state status soon.

In  current swing states where this race isn’t as close, it is interesting to compare how Clinton is doing right now in the polls to Obama’s performance in 2012.

Minnesota: Obama +7.6, Clinton +6.0
Wisconsin: Obama 6.7, Clinton 5.3
Michigan: Obama 8.5, Clinton 5.2
Pennsylvania: Obama 5.1. Clinton 6.6
New Hampshire: Obama 5.8, Clinton 5.0
Colorado: Obama 4.7, Clinton 3.7
Virginia: Obama 3.0, Clinton 3.5

One way to look at that list is that Clinton is doing better in the first 5 states than Trump is doing in Georgia.

Of course the comparison is a bit of apples vs oranges because it is about polling averages vs actual election results. But it gives you some idea of how this race looks for Clinton right now – pretty similar to how things ended up for Obama in those states. If Trump were to win all of the states where the race is close (not likely) and Clinton won those listed right above, here is what the electoral map would look like:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

One of the ways that reporting on the swing states is a bit skewed is that the focus on is still primarily on states like Florida and Ohio. It should be noted that, (1) the list should now include states like Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia (which were traditionally considered red states) and that Virginia and Colorado are trending blue. That is all good news for Democrats, while the only state that looks to be trending in the opposite direction is Iowa.

What this means is that – like in almost every other election – after the debates, it ultimately comes down to voter turnout. A betting person might notice that when it comes to GOTV operations, Clinton definitely has the advantage there right now.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.