Top Five Battleground States for 2012

Top Five Battleground States for 2012

And now for the most interesting part of presidential campaigns - predicting the winners of the closely watched and eternally catered-to swing states.  While states with long-standing political leanings like Massachusetts (Democrat), Texas (Republican), Illinois (Chicago), and Wyoming (Cheney and his neighbors) have already been written off by pundits, a host of other states' electoral votes are up for grabs in November.  Here's my top five picks (with Pennsylvania and Florida close behind).  These aren't necessarily the most "meaningful" swing states in terms of number of electoral votes they produce, but these are the ones I chose to focus on this week: 

Virginia - After Virginians consistently supported Bush in the two presidential elections prior (52.47% in 2000 and 53.68% in 2004), Obama experienced a surprisingly comfortable 52.63% majority in 2008. While the southern and far southwestern parts of the state tend to have more conservative voters, Obama continues to maintain strong support in the more populated areas of northern Virginia.

Ohio - When isn't Ohio a swing state?  Always bordering the 50% mark for whichever candidate they choose, 49.97% and 50.81% of Ohio voters went for Bush in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.  That all changed in 2008, though, when over 51% of voters here supported Obama over McCain.  As everyone says this year, the hot-button issue in Ohio - like other rust-belt states - is jobs, jobs, jobs.  With the Obama administration adding over 4 million private sector jobs during the past 26 months and jump-starting the manufacturing sector, I'd say Obama squeaks by with Ohio's 18 electoral votes. 

Iowa - Iowa really gets a lot of attention around election time, doesn't it?  Caucuses, first state to start the primary season, and now a swing state?  While Obama won Iowa by a relatively wide margin in 2008 (earning 53.93% of the popular vote), Iowa's electoral votes went to Bush in 2004 (though Kerry only lost the popular vote by 0.67%).  Even more interesting?  The state went for Gore in 2000, with 48.54% of the voters choosing the Democrat.  Well done, Iowa, you've cemented your identity as a true swing state.

Missouri - Missouri isn't on most pundits' lists of swing states for 2012.  The campaigns aren't bolstering advertising spending here like they are in other battleground states.  However, even though Missouri was a Republican stronghold for years, Obama only lost this state to McCain in 2008 by 0.13% of the popular vote.  Sooooo close.  The other interesting piece concerning Missouri is that if the state's large base of evangelical voters (some polls claim up to 39% of the voters here identify as evangelicals) doesn't support Romney, Obama might have a chance as the state's 10 electoral votes.

North Carolina - North Carolina dramatically turned a corner during the 2008 presidential election.  After providing Bush with overwhelming support in the previous two elections (56.03% in 2000 and 56.02% in 2004), voters turned around and gave Obama the state's 15 electoral votes in 2008.  Obama only edged out McCain by 0.32% of the popular vote in 2008, and the state is frequently cited as a battleground state in mainstream election coverage.

What do you think?  Am I totally off-base?  Do you live in a swing state?  If you're like me and you don't live in a swing state, are you completely bummed that you won't get to experience the joy that is constant political advertising this fall?

Detailed USA Map, Shutterstock

Electoral data is from David Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, which is a great resource for anyone looking for election data.  Keep in mind that his blue states represent Republican wins, and the red states are for Democrats.  I don't get paid to endorse the site, I just really like numbers.  And elections. 

Photo Attribution - 

White House by Tina Hager via Wikimedia Commons

Voting check box by League of Women Voters of California via Flickr

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