Swing States: Where the Real Battle Happens

Swing States BeLatina Latinx
Image courtesy of FiveThirtyEight.

If the past is any indication of what the future holds, then the 2020 General Election results will be determined by a few closely contested states that can make all the difference. 

Most states heavily support one party over the other.  According to The Cook Political Report, 29 states have voted for the same political party in each presidential election since 1992. They are expected to continue this trend during the upcoming elections. 

Another ten states consistently voted for the same party except on one occasion, and the remaining ones are usually considered swing states.

What exactly are swing states?

Swing states, also known as battleground states or purple states, are those where voters are pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Historically, these states have swung from voting in favor of one party to the other depending on the year and the race, making it very difficult to predict results in them. The purple states usually decide who wins the Electoral College, and therefore becomes the next President of the United States. 

Experts don’t always agree on which states are battlegrounds, and the list typically varies according to the political landscape. Even within the same Presidential Election, states can shift from being safe or leaning towards one party at the beginning of the year to becoming a battleground as Election Day gets closer. 

As races evolve, so does the political map. So far, in this election, we see familiar swing states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia, and Ohio, as well as states that became battlegrounds in recent Presidential Elections like Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. A few others have emerged this year as competitive states such as Minnesota (where Republicans haven’t had a victory since 1972) and Arizona, Georgia, and Texas (states that have consistently voted republican since 2000, 1996, and 1980 respectively.)

According to CNN editor Chris Cillizza, “The widening of the electoral playing field has been happening gradually over the past three elections. But for 15 states to be in the mix this late in a presidential election cycle including Electoral College monsters like Texas and Georgia is a new chapter in modern American politics. And one that holds all sorts of possibilities for both parties in future races.”

Why do they matter? 

The existence of the swing states has major implications for the U.S. Presidential Elections.

  1. In these states, more than in any other, every vote counts – Take as an example the 2000 elections between Republican candidate George W Bush and Democratic nominee Al Gore, where the result came down to who had won Florida. After weeks of legal battles, a recount of votes, and the Supreme Court’s involvement, George W Bush was declared the winner only by a few hundred votes. 
  2. Because these are the states that typically determine the election, they receive the most attention and wooing from presidential candidates. The majority of the advertisements and events from both the Democratic and Republican campaigns heavily target the voters who live where the outcome is undecided. In 2016, 94% of the general-election campaign events happened in 12 states 11 of which were identified as battleground states plus Arizona. 

This means that presidential nominees don’t really run national campaigns, and many states are widely overlooked.  

  1. Many of the candidates’ issues and policies are focused on what matters to the voters in these key states rather than national policies. 

Who has the lead on the swing states?

According to the latest polls, Democratic candidate Joe Biden seems to be leading nationally and in the battleground states. Not only that, but Biden’s margin over President Trump has been consistently increasing even in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina, all won by President Trump back in 2016.