Battleground States: A 21st Century Analysis

by Jonathan Hobratsch

*updated 10/23/2016 to show projections by FiveThirtyEight poll+forecast for 2016. I’ll keep my original comments from three months ago, so you can see how much things have changed. 

Here’s how the 2016 battleground states (I’ll use a loose interpretation of this) have voted since 2000. The numbers will be the % difference (rounding decimal up or down) between the Republicans and Democratic parties only. On virtual ties, I will put the winner’s name first.:

Arizona (Republican for 4 straight elections):

+6 GW Bush

+11 GW Bush

+9 McCain

+9 Romney

*projected at +0, virtual tie between Trump and Clinton

Note: George W. Bush is the state’s favorite 21st century nominee. Arizona has not been a true battleground state within the 21st century, with the Republicans easily winning the state. Arizona last voted for a Democrat in 1996, when Clinton narrowly defeated Dole in the state with the help of Ross Perot’s 3rd party ticket.

Colorado (Democrat for 2 straight elections):

+9 GW Bush

+5 GW Bush

+9 Obama

+5 Obama

*projected +6 for Clinton

Note: Colorado liked Bush and Obama about equally. Both major parties have performed equally well in this state, making it a historical battleground state for the 21st century. The decrease in the support for Obama’s second term, could point to a slight dissatisfaction with Obama’s presidency. Clinton, viewed by many to be a 3rd term of that presidency, may have a difficult time keeping the state in the Blue.

Florida (Democrat for 2 straight elections):  

0 virtual tie between GW Bush and Gore

+5 GW Bush

+3 Obama

+1 Obama

*projected +3 for Clinton

Note: Bush was the preferred 21st century nominee of this state. This is a true battleground state, as both major parties have won the state twice. While Obama slipped two points for his second term, he was able to stop Romney from winning the state. Florida, formerly a very conservative state in the 19th and 20th centuries, will probably be a battleground state for some time, due primarily to immigration within and without the country.

Georgia (Republican for 5 straight elections): 

+12 GW Bush

+17 GW Bush

+5 McCain

+7 Romney

*projected +4 for Trump

Note: Bush is wildly their favorite nominee of the 21st century. Although the Republican dominance has slipped, this isn’t a true battleground state. It is probable that African-Americans turned out in heavy numbers for Obama. It is unlikely Hillary Clinton will even duplicate this at best. Her husband, Bill Clinton, won Georgia in 1992 against GHW Bush, since much of Bush’s vote went to Perot, but he could not duplicate this in 1996.

Iowa (Democrat for 2 straight elections): 

0 virtual tie between Gore and GW Bush

+1 GW Bush

+10 Obama

+6 Obama

*projected +0, virtual tie between Trump and Clinton

Note: Obama is easily the famous nominee of Iowa in the 21st century; although, he slipped slightly during reelection. There may be some dissatisfaction with Obama’s second term, since the polls have generally favored the Republicans heading into the 2016 election. This is a true battleground state; however, I expect Clinton to do better than the current polls suggest.

Maine (Democrat for 6 straight elections): 

+5 Gore

+8 Kerry

+18 Obama

+15 Obama

*projected +9 for Clinton

Note: Obama has been the favorite nominee of this state in the 21st century. Despite a slight slip, Obama easily kept the state in the blue, including all segments of this state’s electoral votes. I do not consider this state a true battleground state, and I expect Maine to back Clinton as it has backed Obama, Kerry and Gore. Maine has not voted Republican since 1988, when it voted for GHW Bush nearly three decades ago.

Michigan (Democrat for 6 straight elections): 

+5 Gore

+3 Kerry

+16 Obama

+9 Obama

*projected +8 for Clinton

Note: Obama has been Michigan’s favorite nominee by far in the 21st century. However, he took a noticeable hit for his second term. Despite this, I don’t consider Michigan as a true battleground state, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Clinton exceeds Obama’s 2nd term performance in this state. Michigan last voted Republican nearly three decades ago, when it favored GHW Bush in 1988.

Minnesota (Democrat for 10 straight elections): 

+2 Gore

+3 Kerry

+10 Obama

+6 Obama

*projected +7 for Clinton

Note: Obama has been the favorite nominee for this state in the 21st century. Despite slipping a bit in his second term victory, Obama out performed both Gore and Kerry. I do not consider this state a true battleground state, and Clinton should probably replicate Obama’s numbers from last election. Minnesota has not voted for a Republican since 1972 — 44 years ago(!) — when it voted for Richard Nixon in his landslide victory.

New Hampshire (Democrat for 3 straight elections):

+1 GW Bush

+1 Kerry

+9 Obama

+6 Obama

*projected +7 for Clinton

Note: Obama has been the preferred nominee of this state in the 21st century. The state is barely a true battleground state, with a New England Republican governor barely making a dent in Obama’s effort to replicate his 2008 success in the state. Despite, excitement with Trump in some polls, I think the state inevitably goes to Clinton. She should exceed Kerry’s numbers.

Nevada (Democrat for 2 straight elections): 

+4 GW Bush

+2 GW Bush

+12 Obama

+6 Obama

*projected +3 for Clinton

Note: Obama has been the preferred candidate of this state in the 21st century. However, he slipped rather noticeably in his bid for reelection. This state is a true battleground state. Trump’s connection to the casino and entertainment industry may help him here in 2016. This is a true battleground state.

North Carolina (Republican for 1 straight election): 

+13 GW Bush

+12 GW Bush

+1 Obama

+2 Romney

*projected +2 for Clinton

Note: Bush is easily the favorite nominee of 21st century North Carolina. African-American voters really helped Obama in both of his elections, but succeeding in sending him to victory only once. Despite having a lot of support from the same community, I don’t think Clinton will win North Carolina, and I think the margin will be high enough against her that I would not call this a true battleground state. Expect Trump to exceed Romney’s success, but not get anywhere close to Bush’s numbers.

Ohio (Democrat for 2 straight elections): 

+4 GW Bush

+2 GW Bush

+5 Obama

+3 Obama

*projected +1 for Clinton

Note: Obama is barely the preferred nominee of this state in the 21st century. This is a true battleground state, and rather unpredictable. Republicans can feel optimistic for three reasons: support for Obama declined from 2008 to 2012, Republican Gov. John Kasich has been so successful, and that the Republican Convention was held in Ohio. Democrats have a reason to feel optimistic: popular Republican Gov. Kasich will not endorse Trump. I expect the winner of this state to win by about 1 to 3%, whomever that person might be.

Oregon (Democrat for 7 straight elections):

0 virtual tie between Gore and GW Bush

+4 Kerry

+17 Obama

+12 Obama

*projected +11 Clinton

Note: Obama is easily Oregon’s favorite nominee of the 21st century. Despite the close contest in 2000, I don’t see a likely similar contest in 2016. Oregon seems to be getting Bluer by the year, despite Obama’s slip in 2012. I expect Clinton to win by double-digits. This isn’t a true battleground state. The last Republican to win Oregon was Ronald Reagan in 1984–32 years ago!

Pennsylvania (Democrat for 6 straight elections): 

+5 Gore

+3 Kerry

+10 Obama

+5 Obama

*projected +6 for Clinton

Note: Obama has been the favorite nominee of this state in the 21st century. The population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have kept Pennsylvania, which can often resemble Indiana in politics, into the Blue corner. Having had the Democratic National Convention in Pennsylvania will probably help a little bit, just as the Republicans might get a slight boost in Ohio for their convention in that state. Despite Obama’s slip in 2012, I think the state is still slightly more blue than red. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Clinton replicated or exceeds Obama’s 2012 numbers, making this not so much a true battleground state. Pennsylvania has not gone Red since 1988, when it voted for GHW Bush, nearly 3 decades ago.

Virginia (Democrat for 2 straight elections):

+8 GW Bush

+9 GW Bush

+7 Obama

+4 Obama

*projected +8 for Clinton

Note: Virginia has slightly preferred Bush in the 21st century. Despite, Obama’s success, I think this state is a true battleground state, even with Kaine on the Democratic ticket. Certainly, he will help, but I don’t think Clinton will get the same turn out from African-American voters in this state. I will say that I think Clinton is more likely to win than Trump, but that I expect the victory to be smaller than Obama’s victory in 2012.

Wisconsin (Democrat for 7 straight elections): 

0 virtual tie between Gore and GW Bush

+1 Kerry

+14 Obama

+7 Obama

*projected +7 for Clinton

Note: Obama has easily been Wisconsin’s favorite nominee of the 21st century. Take in mind that Obama won a major victory here, despite Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan on Romney’s ticket, and with the support of Gov. Scott Walker in that state. This is not a true battleground state and Clinton should probably easily hold Wisconsin. This state last voted for a Republican 32 years ago, when it cast its vote for Ronald Reagan.

Conclusion:

Based on the historical trends of these loosely defined battleground states, I see Clinton as having the better shot at victory in 2016. However, once again Ohio or Florida will decide the election, but Republicans will have to win both of them, while Democrats only need one of them.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Ukraine is a cleft country –Paul

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