May 26, 2016
We think of presidential elections as a national event, but they’re not. The Electoral College means each state separately chooses whom to support. Once upon a time, many states were competitive. In 1976, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford were within 5 points of each other in 20 states. Another 11 were closer than 8 points. That gave them plenty of campaigning options.
It’s normal to have blue states and red states. The extent to which we can assume many states are not up for grabs in a competitive election is not. Barack Obama’s margin over Mitt Romney in 2012 was only a couple points more than Carter-Ford. But only 4 states were decided by less than 5 points, another 8 by less than 8.
We’ve become used to thinking about a few key states. If Democrats can take Florida or Ohio from the Republicans, they’ll probably win. If Republicans can hold those and take Pennsylvania, they’re likely celebrating on election night. Places like Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire are considered competitive. That’s about the list. Maybe add Nevada. Continue reading