2012 Presidential Election Polls
 


Swing States Update

April 26, 2012

**May 16 Update** A couple weeks back, the New York Times came out with their battleground state analysis.   Wisconsin was included in that list.    Given this plus recent polling which shows the race basically tied, we’ve added the Times as a 4th resource (see post below) and moved Wisconsin into the toss-up category in our map.

**UPDATE:  Here’s a saved/shareable copy of the toss-up map**

We’ve updated the swing states starting view on our home page 2012 interactive electoral map. As with all the views provided, this is just meant as a starting point for you to create and share your own forecast for the 2012 presidential election.

Any state considered a toss-up by one or more of the professional prognosticators below is shown as a swing state on our map.   The rest of the states are colored blue or red, reflecting an overall opinion that those states are either leaning, likely or safe for one of the two candidates.  All these groups have updated their forecasts this week (late April), so the 270 swing states map reflects the current general consensus of these groups.

We’ll try and stick to this more consistent methodology for updating the map as the election draws closer.

 

Interestingly, each forecaster currently has 7 states as toss-up, although they vary.  As a result, 9 states meet the above toss-up criteria.   Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia are cited as toss up in all 3 predictions.  Iowa, and Pennsylvania are a toss up twice, with NBC showing Iowa as leaning Romney, while Crystal Ball shows Pennsylvania leaning for Obama.
North Carolina is only a toss-up for NBC.   Both Cook and Crystal Ball show it leaning Romney.
Finally, we get to New Hampshire, where the experts are truly split.   Crystal Ball shows it as a toss-up, Cook has it leaning Romney, while NBC has it leaning Obama.
  • PollWatcher

    What is a swing state? Who decides this? “To show how little the presidential campaign turf has changed since 2008, all seven of the toss-ups are states that Obama won in 2008″ … It’s dishonest for Sabato and the others to say this, and then exclude Indiana — as Gallup also did in their ‘swing state’ poll — and yet include Pennsylvania, which hasn’t gone GOP in 24 years!

    • Allan

      Who decides who is going to win the AL East in baseball? The players ultimately do…. but that doesn’t stop all kinds of people from predicting the winners months ahead of time based on past performance and the current roster. While there’s obviously a lot more on the line with a presidential election, the analogy between politics and sports, both as entertainment activities to be debated endlessly, seems apt in America, 2012. In terms of the specific issue of swing states, it is likely primarily based on some combination of recent voting history (both presidential and state/local elections) and current polling trends. As the election nears, polling trends will begin to take precedence as will an analysis of where the campaigns are focusing their resources in an effort to turn their own internal map forecasts into 270 electoral votes.

      • PollWatcher

        “it is likely primarily based on some combination of recent voting history (both presidential and state/local elections)”

        Is 24 years “recent voting history” or is 4 years “recent voting history”? Including a state which hasn’t voted for the other party in 24 years is selection bias, and bad polling. Period.

        • Tal

          Only looking at a state’s voting history gives you a very small part of the picture. According to that approach, Virginia should never have been considered a battleground state in 2008 since it has gone Republican every election over the past 60 years, except for the landslide 486-52 margin of victory for LBJ in ’64. How did you deal with Virginia suddenly flipping in ’08? The fact is that Pennsylvania has always been a battleground state. Though the Dems have won it every time since 1992, look at other pertinent factors. Bush won 46.5% to Gore’s 50.4% in 2000, and lost the state in 2004 by only 1.5 points, winning 48.5%. Some polls put the race there in a statistical dead heat, suggesting that the election there will be more like 2004 than 2008, in part because of the state’s blue dog democratic population that has drifted from the president since 2009.

          The same can be said for Wisconsin, a state that has gone Democratic for 28 years – even longer than Pennsylvania. But look at the margins; in 2000 Bush won 47.6% and lost the state to Gore by only 5,000 votes. In 2004 Bush won more than 49.3% there, again just barely losing the state to Kerry. The fact that this perennial battleground state was very close in three of the five elections from 1988 through 2004 does factor in and cannot be ignored.

  • joe

    try to indicate a “change” of a state’s status when i look at my map from one time to another….when i look at map every few days the totals may change and i do not readily see which states you changed the status of…thanks

    • Allan

      In the swing states map update, Obama went from 191 to 227, with Michigan, Wisconsin and New Mexico moved to him from the toss-up category. Romney went from 181 to 191, with Missouri added to his column.

      Just to clarify, none of the states will change on any map you’ve created; we’ve only changed the status of the default/starting view.

  • Ken

    Right now, about the only thing that can really be projected is a certain number of safe states–states that, unless there’s some dramatic change, are certain to go one way or the other. Such dramatic changes are far from rare; most campaigns have at least one, and some campaigns have more than one. In 2008, there were two; the nomination of Sarah Palin caused, for about three weeks, a sharp swing toward John McCain, but then the respective meltdowns of Palin and the stock market caused the decisive swing to Barack Obama.

    There are a handful of states that are really safe each way, with a little over 200 electoral votes safe for Obama, and a little under 200 for Romney. Everything else is entirely dependent on what happens. In a great many states, Obama has small leads but remains under 50% in polling. Given the well-documented tendency of a majority of undecided voters to break for the challenger (Dick Morris is correct about the existence of this tendency, but overstates its strength), this race as a whole is still entirely a toss-up, anyone’s guess.

    • Desi

      Though in most local and statewide elections it is true that there is a tendency for a majority of undecided voters to break for the challenger, this is not the case in national elections for president where the incumbent tends to have a stronger hand with undecided voters as long as their perspective of the country is going okay. It will all simply depend on where we are economically in November. That’s it. Unless a war breaks out that’s going to be the deciding factor as a tangible gain and the index of consumer confidence will be the intangible gain or loss. Right not despite some small issues, it’s treading toward the incumbent but by no means is this a locked up race. It’s the economy.

  • Keith

    Why would Wisconsin no longer be considered a “swing state”? The recall election in June would surly prove which way Wisconsin would lean in November; as well as the possible selection of Representative Paul Ryan, of the 1st Congressional District, as the Vice Presidential nominee for Mitt Romney.

  • mark

    I dont see the logic in using NBC as a pollster. They consistently weight their polling data with heavy and over sampling of democrats. It is quite clear they are a biased organization. Wisconsin is certainly a swing state and your map doesnt reflect it…….Until you use better pollsters your data will be flawed.

    • 270toWin

      Thanks for the feedback. Let me make the following points:

      1. The NBC forecast is based on the best current guesses of their political unit, factoring in recent election history, population trends etc…. not just on polls they’ve conducted. No professionals are going to forecast the election based just on polls this far out. I do agree that some of their recent polling (such as the end-of-March Wisconsin poll), seems a little out of line.

      2. The way we created this swing view (might be better to think of it as a toss-up view) is based on the composite of the three forecasts we’re using. If any one of them had Wisconsin as a toss-up, then we would show it as such. None of them currently do. Given the various Wisconsin polls to date as well as the fact that the state hasn’t voted Republican since 1984, I don’t think it is unreasonable that the state is categorized as leaning toward the President.

      3. By using a consistent methodology, we can stay out of the forecast business, which is not the point of our website. Just use it or one of the other views as a starting point to create your own map, and use “The Road to 270″ below the map to see the various combinations for an Obama, Romney or tie outcome.

      4. Finally, we’d be happy if Wisconsin became a swing/toss-up state. In fact, we’d prefer it if 20 states were swing states. More uncertainty = more interest in the election = more visits to an electoral college website.

  • Keith

    Wisconsin had been considered a swing state in ’00, and ’04. In ’10 we saw a sweep in republican takeovers: State Senate, State House, Governor, Congressional seats, and the unseating of a popular Democratic Senator (Russ Feingold) who was replaced by a very conservative businessman (Ron Johnson). Not only did that happen in 2010, but Republicans are very excited about keeping Scott Walker in the Governor’s Mansion in June. Lastly, former popular Governor Tommy Thompson and Congressman Mark Neumann are running for the United States Senate in November. Whichever one of the two wins the primary will make Tammy Baldwin’s Senate race competitive. Wisconsin is a shoo-in for swing state status. To say otherwise seems unreal. Even Larry Sabato says it will be a “race to watch”.

  • Michael

    I completely agree with Mark, NBC/Marist is way too biased for polling solutions, I would suggest PPP. They still lean-Democrat, but they are far more independent, and they don’t have VA a solid-democratic state in polls they have polls that lean in directions and are solid ties. While NBC/Marist puts out ridiculous claims that Obama will win VA by 20 and FL by 10. PPP is much more accurate.

  • J Harris

    People should visit realclearpolitics.com’s Electoral College map. Obama leads in swing states like Virginia (barely), Iowa, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. Romney leads in swings states like Arizona and Missouri.

  • Brian

    Thank you for this update. The new map is a much more accurate reflection of the election as it stands today. Personally, I would have included Missouri and Arizona as toss up states, since past polls have shown them to be rather close and the availability of current polling data is scant and generally inconclusive.

    Recent polls for Arizona have large numbers of undecided voters and are therefore statistically useless. Recent Missouri polls show a safe lead for Romney, but only if you trust Rasmussen. I don’t but that’s me.

    Still, 270toWin can hardly be blamed for taking the opinions of experts over mine. Your methodology sounds good and should provide an excellent base for making predictions. Great work.

  • Dave

    One of Romney’s very few paths to 270:

    http://www.270towin.com/2012_election_predictions.php?mapid=jRD

    The only way a Romney win looks much different than this is in the entirely possible scenario of a Nixon-McGovern/ Reagan-Mondale style Republican blowout.

  • http://www.270towin.com Rob

    The fact that Obama is only leading in states like Ohio and Florida (depending on which polls you pay attention to) by small margins 2-5% show how much in trouble he really is. An incumbent president at this stage of the game with an opponent who just sewed the other party’s nomination should have double digit leads at this stage. The overall majority of voters don’t really know who Romney is and based on that there is no way he should be so close to Obama in late April. The June recall will give us some indication of how Wisconsin will go in November which I think will vote to keep Walker in power and will go Republican in November My feeling is Obama is going to lose with Romney getting 320+ electoral college votes.

    • Tom

      I agree Rob, but because of Obma’s massive war chest (and by the way, Romney is the only Republican financially that could compete with him on that point), I do think it will be close, and if Romney wins it would be similar to the ’04 result. For me, I would like to know why Michigan is not in play at this point. I recall that the late Robert Novak said during the ’08 election that if Romney were the nominee, Michigan would be in the bag for him because of his roots there. One other note…given the ACORN incidents of the past election, Republicans would do well to be very diligent about making sure of a very accurate vote count!!

  • mark

    In regards to Rasmussen polling. they actually came within half a percentage point of the actual results in 2008. solid polling by professionals. Real clear politics has all the major polls and the aggragate samples are sound….much better than using just 3 pollsters….jus sayin

  • http://govforliberty.blogspot.com Nick2253

    Why don’t you guys use RealClearPolitic’s electoral map in determining your swing states? Their map is based almost entirely on polling, and would be a nice alternative to the three pundit-designed maps you’ve selected.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/2012_elections_electoral_college_map.html

    • D

      Nick,

      I took your advice. (Thanks.)

      What typically happens is this: If we flip the parties for the White House, the candidate representing that will carry the same states his losing party’s nominee won in the last election. Go back to all these 270towin.com maps and you’ll find it’s true with nearly all circumstances where the presidency went from Democratic to Republican (last was in 2000) or Republican to Democratic (in 2008). Counting Republicans vs. Democrats, there were two exceptions. If we re-elect an incumbent to a second term, it usually results in an increase with electoral votes (for second term).

      Look to the margins. In 2008, John McCain failed to hold the White House for the Republicans and lost nationally by 7.26%. (This was after George W. Bush won over Democratic challenger John Kerry, in 2004, by just 2.46%.) But those insisting this 2012 presidential election will be closer are assuming a national shift to the Republicans. (I suspect that many in the media want this narrative and, ultimately, most people who are not correlating numbers are not going to be the wiser.)

      If President Barack Obama gets re-elected, history shows he’ll increase with his second election the popular vote margin reaped from his first. And those who think Obama will get re-elected, or that Romney will unseat Obama, need to explain how McCain’s home state, Arizona, could be in play given McCain carried it by 8.48% — making it, in 2008, 15.74 percent more GOP than how the country voted. If Arizona is in play — and, worse, if it flips from red to blue — we’ll be seeing President Obama re-elected. Otherwise, that state should be shifting further north in support of the 2012 Republican ticket — closer to 18.48% (not near to — or dramatically less than — 8.48%).

      If Romney unseats Obama, we’ll see all of John McCain’s 2008 states color red again; and the margins in nearly all — or, in fact, every single one of them — will color more deeply red. All states flipped would come from incumbent party.

      If Obama gets re-elected, take those 365 electoral votes and predict whether he gets in the 370s, 380s — or that whether we’re in for an electoral landslide that reaches at least 400. History also shows this: since the Republicans and Democrats first competed against each other in 1856, just four who were re-elected to a second term did not give up a single state (with re-election): Abraham Lincoln (1864), Franklin Roosevelt (1936), Richard Nixon (1972), and Ronald Reagan (1984). All others re-elected to a second term lost at least one state but countered with pickups (enough to increase electoral votes).

      Nick’s reference to realclearpolitics.com is more perceptive. Having to consider the scenarios: we could see a traditional re-election — with the color trading of a few select states — that involve Indiana and/or North Carolina, in one corner, vs. Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, and Montana, in the other. If Romney unseats Obama, Ariz., Ga., Mo., and Mont. increase their redness while he flips Ind. and N.C. If Obama defeats Romney, he’d lose one of Ind. or N.C. (but not both) and flip at least two of Ariz., Ga., Mo., and Mont. to increase that 365 (re-allocated this decade to 359).

      Too early to predict? I disagree. I could imagine Obama giving up Ind. and Neb. #02 but countering with flipping Ariz. and Ga. — for 374 electoral votes. Consider that Ga., Mo., and Mont. resulted, in 2008, with Obama having won over the female vote in each — and that Mo. barely carried for McCain (0.13%). Mont. was just 2.38%. (Both have U.S. Senate races this year with incumbent Democrats who unseated then-incumbent Republicans in the congressional elections of 2006.)

      Amazing how many overlook much of this!

      Even more amazing is how historical voting patterns are not just overlooked … but virtually ignored.

      • Tal

        D, you wrote

        “If President Barack Obama gets re-elected, history shows he’ll increase with his second election the popular vote margin reaped from his first. And those who think Obama will get re-elected, or that Romney will unseat Obama, need to explain how McCain’s home state, Arizona, could be in play given McCain carried it by 8.48% — making it, in 2008, 15.74 percent more GOP than how the country voted. If Arizona is in play — and, worse, if it flips from red to blue — we’ll be seeing President Obama re-elected. Otherwise, that state should be shifting further north in support of the 2012 Republican ticket — closer to 18.48% (not near to — or dramatically less than — 8.48%). ”

        While I do think that Arizona is a pretty safe Republican state this year, you’re ignoring two important facts in gauging the margin of victory. A closer election in Arizona could happen despite a generally weaker Obama electoral performance nationally because A) he wont be running against an Arizona native and B) the demographic change in Arizona over the past four years, the same change that has weakened the Republican position in other western states like Colorado and Nevada.

        • D

          No.

          You cannot isolate a state here or there — even with an argument about demographic changes — when a national tide is involved (in which the result is a party flip for the White House).

          • Tal

            Yes you can.

            What are you basing your sweeping claim on? You don’t bring any argument or proof. Just because there is a general trend doesn’t mean that certain states wont be affected in other ways. According to your logic no incumbent who wins reelection can lose states he won in the first election if his overall margin of victory increases. Bush won NH in 2000 by about 1.5% but lost it in 2004 by that same margin, even though he picked up two new states (New Mexico and Iowa) and his vote share increased in most states, whether he won them or not. Overall Clinton performed much better in 1996 than in 1992, but he still lost states that he had won in 1992, like Colorado and Georgia. In 1956 Eisenhower increased his electoral victory from 442 in 1952 to 457, and his popular vote count went up from 55.2% to 57.4%, yet he still managed to lose Missouri, a state he had carried in 1952.

          • D

            Tal writes:

            “Yes you can.”

            No.

            What I am saying is that, if we have an election flipping the White House party, a state that voted for the minority party (in 2008 it was the Democrats before winning over the presidency; now in 2012 it is the Republicans) cannot be lost if that party is to win back the presidency. The minority party’s candidate will not lose a single state carried by the minority party’s losing candidate from the previous cycle. (Examples: JImmy Carter won all of George McGovern’s 1972 states in the Democratic pickup year of 1976; Ronald Reagan won all of Gerald Ford’s 1976 states in the Republican pickup year of 1980; Bill Clinton won all of Michael Dukakis’s 1988 states in the Democratic pickup year of 1992; George W. Bush won all of Bob Dole’s 1996 states in the Republican pickup year of 2000; Barack Obama won all of John Kerry’s 2004 states in the Democratic pickup year of 2008.) Nearly all states — not just those in the column for the minority party in the last cycle — will end up shifting in direction of the party that will win back the White House. Backtracking: 45 states shifted to the Ds in 2008. 49 states shifted to the Rs in 2000. 49 states shifted to the Ds in 1992. 49 states shifted the Rs in 1980. All 50 states shifted to the Ds in 1976. Of the five that did not shift to the Ds in 2008, three of them — Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia — were statistical status quos; and the remaining two — Arkansas and Louisiana — rejected Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee (in two states historically carried in successful Democratic campaigns; women in Ark. shifted their 49% support for John Kerry down to 39% for Barack Obama; likely they would have been closer to 59% had the party nominated instead former the country’s and that state’s former First Lady Hillary Clinton — adding up to a pickup and carriage of Arkansas!).

            “What are you basing your sweeping claim on? You don’t bring any argument or proof.”

            Go to Dave Leip’s web site — http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/ — and you can get a lot of info. It’s plenty logical. Go that site for past results — especially in presidential years that flipped from Democratic to Republican and, as the inverse, Republican to Democratic, for a larger picture of the reality of what happens — and click “swing.”

            “Just because there is a general trend doesn’t mean that certain states wont be affected in other ways.”

            I acknowledge that.

            In 1980, Vermont actually shifted Democratic in a Republican pickup of the White House for Ronald Reagan. In 1992, all states but Iowa shifted Democratic in a party pickup of the presidency for Bill Clinton. In 2000, all states but Maryland (and District of Columbia; which is not a state) shifted Republican in a pickup for George W. Bush. In the case of 1976, Jimmy Carter dealt with 1972 George McGovern’s national loss of -23.15%. He shifted the margin nationally by 25.21 to unseat Gerald Ford by 2.06 percentage points. No states shifted in Ford’s direction as the Republicans lost the White House to Democratic challenger Carter.

            I’m tying this into a theoretical scenario of what would be involved with the Republicans if they were to win back the White House in this current year of 2012.

            ” According to your logic no incumbent who wins reelection can lose states he won in the first election if his overall margin of victory increases.”

            No.

            That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is this: If likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney fails to hold any one state in the GOP column of his party’s losing candidate from 2008 — John McCain — that tells us right away that incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama will get re-elected. In 1996, when the polls closed at 7 p.m. ET in Florida, Republican challenger Bob Dole failed to hold it (as it narrowly held, by 1.89%, for 1992′s unseated GOP George Bush). That was telling enough that Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton was getting re-elected in Election 1996.

            Therefore, the 8.48% margin by which John McCain’s home state from 2008 cannot go decisively in the direction of the Democrats (especially to the flipping point) if the Republicans were to erase Barack Obama’s national 7.26% margin (over McCain) to win back the White House with Election 2012.

            “Bush won NH in 2000 by about 1.5% but lost it in 2004 by that same margin, even though he picked up two new states (New Mexico and Iowa) and his vote share increased in most states, whether he won them or not. Overall Clinton performed much better in 1996 than in 1992, but he still lost states that he had won in 1992, like Colorado and Georgia. In 1956 Eisenhower increased his electoral victory from 442 in 1952 to 457, and his popular vote count went up from 55.2% to 57.4%, yet he still managed to lose Missouri, a state he had carried in 1952.”

            You’re referring to incumbents who were re-elected. My argument is not against that. In fact, I stated that — since the Rs and Ds first competed against each other in 1856 — just four incumbents won a second [full] term while not losing a single state carried with first election: Abraham Lincoln (1964), Franklin Roosevelt (1936), Richard Nixon (1972), and Ronald Reagan (1984). All others gave up at least one state. But they countered with flipping at least another state not carried in an incumbent’s first election. (This is why I brought up Indiana as being the one, of nine 2008 Democratic pickups, for which Obama would give up for re-election while countering with pickups between 2008-McCain-/GOP-held Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, and Montana.) And, yes, Woodrow Wilson even did this with Utah, one of only two states held by the disastrous unseating of William Howard Taft in 1912; Wilson flipped it into his 1916 re-election column. (Yes, Wilson is the only two-term-elected commander in chief with fewer electoral votes won in his second election, compared to his first. All others elected to a second full term gained in their electoral-vote score.)

      • Tal

        D, you wrote

        “If we re-elect an incumbent to a second term, it usually results in an increase with electoral votes (for second term).”

        Usually is the operative word. Remember Woodrow Wilson’s narrow margin of victory in 1916 after sweeping the 1912 election. Obama swept 2008 because of a whole host of issues that crippled the Republicans (the collapsing popularity of the then still ongoing Iraq War, the economic crash, Bush’s poor approval rating, low voter excitement amongst Republicans, etc). In a normal election cycle (if there is such a thing) Obama would never have driven so deeply into Republican territory (Indiana, North Carolina, and even an electoral vote in Nebraska) and wouldn’t have won battleground states by such large margins.

        “But those insisting this 2012 presidential election will be closer are assuming a national shift to the Republicans.”

        I don’t think that fact is questioned by anyone. The 2010 midterms were powerful proof of the reversal of the Democratic tide that eroded Republican control from 2006-2008. Polling today (and you can check on RCP for the average or go through individual polls) show that congressionally Republicans are fairing far better than four years ago, with polls showing either a statistical tie or a Republican lead. Obviously congressional elections are separate from the presidential race, but the resurgence of the GOP generally does suggest a far closer presidental race than 2008. Obama’s relatively low approval ratings and the sluggish economy both suggest that the election will be at the very least far closer than 2008, if not an outright Republican victory. Also there have been polls suggesting a sharp decline in voter enthusiasm amongst Democrats since the flurry of enthusiasm in 2008 (see Gallup here http://www.gallup.com/poll/149759/Democrats-Dispirited-Voting-2012.aspx and http://www.gallup.com/poll/153038/GOP-Slightly-Ahead-Voting-Enthusiasm.aspx). Note that in 2008 Republican enthusiasm was markedly lower than in the two previous elections (44 versus 51 in 200 and 53 in 2004) while Democratic enthusiasm was extremely high in 2008 (79% versus 59 in 2004). Today GOP enthusiasm has returned to its 2004 level while Democratic enthusiasm is 8 points lower, well below the ’04 level and 34 points less than 2008. Voter enthusiasm is extremely important for Obama, who received the same share of the white vote as Al Gore and built his 2008 victory on high turnout and voter enthusiasm amongst ethnic minorities and young voters – groups who tend not to turnout in comparable numbers to the rest of the electorate but did vote en masse in 2008.

      • Tal

        “What I am saying is that, if we have an election flipping the White House party, a state that voted for the minority party (in 2008 it was the Democrats before winning over the presidency; now in 2012 it is the Republicans) cannot be lost if that party is to win back the presidency. The minority party’s candidate will not lose a single state carried by the minority party’s losing candidate from the previous cycle. (Examples: JImmy Carter won all of George McGovern’s 1972 states in the Democratic pickup year of 1976; Ronald Reagan won all of Gerald Ford’s 1976 states in the Republican pickup year of 1980; Bill Clinton won all of Michael Dukakis’s 1988 states in the Democratic pickup year of 1992; George W. Bush won all of Bob Dole’s 1996 states in the Republican pickup year of 2000; Barack Obama won all of John Kerry’s 2004 states in the Democratic pickup year of 2008.) ”

        Usually that is the case but not always – you’re ignoring Nixon’s 1968 victory, where he won the presidency but lost four states that went GOP in 1964 (Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi). In three of them Nixon didn’t even manage to come in second.

        Yes, presidents who switch control of the White House TEND to capture all of the states their party’s previous candidate did, for the simple reason that losing candidates are more restricted to their parties “safe” states. But that rule is certainly not etched in stone, as Nixon’s election in 1968 proves. Goldwater was a particularly attractive candidate for the deep south in an election that they felt extremely strongly about (given the civil rights legislation they desperately wanted to halt). But change the candidate, change the circumstances of the election, and you can have a very different outcome.

        Again this is all theoretical. I do think that Arizona will go red again this year, but it might be a smaller margin than in 2008 when McCain ran from Arizona and received a home-state advantage, not to mention the demographic changes. That is hardly certain, of course, since Hispanic voting this year might be significantly less than the abnormally high level in 2008. So the margin of victory is pretty much up in the air. I’m also confident that Missouri, which McCain narrowly carried in 2008, will stay red this year, despite some talk of it as a possible Obama pickup. The fact that Obama is extremely unlikely to pickup any states this year has less to do with any broad electoral rule as the one you put forth – that candidates who flip the WH carry all of the states won by their party’s last candidate – and everything to do with the fact that Obama’s victory marked the high water mark for Democrats. He won not only easy won classic battleground states like Ohio, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Florida, but flipped deep red states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana and even won one of Nebraska’s electoral votes. McCain was pretty much left with just the core of the Republican party and fared poorly with independent voters and swing states. Obama’s victory in 2008 was simply so total that he has no where to go, so to speak, in 2012 and at best can only defend as much of his 2008 map as possible.

        • D

          Tal writes: “Usually that is the case but not always – you’re ignoring Nixon’s 1968 victory, where he won the presidency but lost four states that went GOP in 1964 (Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi). In three of them Nixon didn’t even manage to come in second.”

          No. Did not ‘ignore’ it let alone overlook it. I’m focusing on Republican-vs.-Democrat. Not third parties. (Mitigating circumstances.) The two elections of record, following the Rs’-vs.-Ds’ premiere matchup in 1856, in which this pattern was broken came in 1884 and 1896. Grover Cleveland, winning his first term as a Democratic pickup in 1884, failed to win California and Nevada (which voted for 1880′s losing Democrat, Winifred Hancock). William McKinley, the Republican pickup winner for a first term in 1896, failed to hold Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Washington (which were in the column of the unseated Republican incumbent of 1892, Benjamin Harrison).

          “Again this is all theoretical. I do think that Arizona will go red again this year, but it might be a smaller margin than in 2008 when McCain ran from Arizona and received a home-state advantage, not to mention the demographic changes. That is hardly certain, of course, since Hispanic voting this year might be significantly less than the abnormally high level in 2008. So the margin of victory is pretty much up in the air.”

          So, Arizona would be the sole state — from McCain’s column — in which Romney would underperform?

          ” I’m also confident that Missouri, which McCain narrowly carried in 2008, will stay red this year, despite some talk of it as a possible Obama pickup. The fact that Obama is extremely unlikely to pickup any states this year has less to do with any broad electoral rule as the one you put forth – that candidates who flip the WH carry all of the states won by their party’s last candidate – and everything to do with the fact that Obama’s victory marked the high water mark for Democrats.”

          Not ‘my’ rule. In fact, it’s not a ‘rule.’ It’s a long-established pattern — much exhibiting some logic — that addresses how the electorate deals in presidential elections. Always ask oneself, “Is this a year the incumbent/current party holds the White House — or will it switch the opposite side?” If a flip is involved, nearly every state will shift away from the incumbent/current party. But if it’s an incumbent getting re-elected, some states scale back their margins away from, while others shift toward, the incumbent in his/her bid for re-election.

          THE ‘IFs” THIS BOILS DOWN TO . . .
          • Mitt Romney unseating Barack Obama: he should be erasing the 7.26% margin by which Obama won over McCain. And Arizona should go north of 8.48% by which it carried for native son McCain. (President Obama received 45% support each, in 2008, from females and males. His support with — likely the case — both would get reduced.)
          • Obama defeating Romney: watch his popular-vote margin, from 2008, nationally increase between 3 and 5 percent — an estimate — as was the case with 2004 George W. Bush (2.98%), 1996 Bill Clinton (2.96%), and 1956 Dwight Eisenhower (4.55%). If he were to nationally shift, for re-election, just like 1984 Ronald Reagan (8.48%) or 1972 Richard Nixon (22.45%), it’s a disaster for Romney and the GOP. Either scenario — modest or dramatic — results in higher electoral-vote score with re-election (compared to first).

          “Obama’s victory in 2008 was simply so total that he has no where to go, so to speak, in 2012 and at best can only defend as much of his 2008 map as possible.”

          Not true.

          • Tal

            “No. Did not ‘ignore’ it let alone overlook it. I’m focusing on Republican-vs.-Democrat. Not third parties. (Mitigating circumstances.)”

            Yes you most certainly did. As I pointed out, in three of the four Goldwater states that Nixon lost, Nixon came in third, making it pretty difficult to argue that states that Nixon lost in 1960 and that either never in their history went Red prior to 1964 or had done so only once or twice were lost simply because of George Wallace. In 1964 the candidate (Goldwater) and the unique circumstances (most notably the civil rights legislation in congress) tilted only a certain demographic group (southern whites), while the rest of the country moved in the opposite direction. So LBJ was able to be win a huge landslide, far outstripping the democratic victory of 1960 while still losing states carried in 1960. Generally the nation moved strongly towards the Dems, but the deep south moved in the opposite direction. That’s another obvious example you simply ignore. Trends and movements need not be uniform; different groups and regions behave differently and to assume a uniformity of movement in all elections has no basis in reality.

            “So, Arizona would be the sole state — from McCain’s column — in which Romney would under-perform? ”

            It could happen but its impossible to say with any degree of certainty. It depends on a plethora of factors such as the level of Hispanic turnout and the margin by which Obama carries the Hispanic vote. Arizona could just as easily end up going more red than it did in 2008, considering that that year saw an unprecedented Hispanic turnout. If I had to guess, I’d probably say Arizona will lean more Republican this year than in 2008, but the increase will be less than overall nationwide shift towards the GOP.

            “Mitt Romney unseating Barack Obama: he should be erasing the 7.26% margin by which Obama won over McCain. And Arizona should go north of 8.48% by which it carried for native son McCain.”

            Again, you’re assuming that trends are consistent across all demographic and geographic groups. They rarely are. Even in an election like 2008, where we saw a general trend towards the left across the country, there are a lot of exceptions. Most obviously, though Obama generally did better than Kerry (in 44 states + DC) in six states he did more poorly (including a 6 point decline in Arkansas), including in Massachusetts, which both candidates won, but which Kerry carried with a slightly higher margin because it was his home-state – a salient factor in a discussion of Arizona 2008 vs 2012.

            In another 18 states Obama increased the Democratic performance over 2004 but significantly below the nationwide increase of 4.6% Obama achieved over Kerry’s popular vote total. The discrepancies are highly localized – in the western and central south Obama either lost ground or gain far less than he did nationwide vis-a-vis Kerry’s 2004 performance. He also saw diminished increases or even decreases from Kerry’s 2004 rates in home states of the Republican ticket (Arizona and Alaska) and his predecessor (Massachusetts), which reinforces the point that home states poll better for their native’s party then they otherwise would have. The 2008 dem vote strengthened above average in the west, great plains, four of the five industrial midwest states, and the southern atlantic coast.

            Even if Mitt Romney were to win the election and even increase the GOP margin of victory in Arizona, there is no reason to assume it would correspond to the nationwide average. Many local factors are in play in each state that affect the general trend of either dem or GOP gains and losses. Certainly McCain did better in Arizona than a different GOP candidate would have done in 2008 and the loss of the home-state advantage in 2012 has to be taken into account. Generally the west shifted more to the left than the rest of the country in 2008. The southwest in particular shifted heavily. The dem vote share in Utah increased by 8.2 points – compared to 4.6 nationwide – and 7.8 in New Mexico, 7.3 in Nevada, and 6.7 in Colorado. In Arizona, however, Obama only drew half a point more than Kerry, obviously due to McCain’s home-state advantage.

          • D

            Tal write:

            “Yes you most certainly did [ignore it].”

            No.

            I cannot and will not address every nook and cranny dealing with the topic. That doesn’t mean something has been “ignored.”

            I’ve cited Elections 1884 and 1896 — a Democratic pickup with the first; Republian pickup with the second — that deviated from the pattern (Grover Cleveland, the D pickup of 1884 having actually lost D-carried states by the Ds’ losing 1880 candidate, Winifred Hancock; William McKinley, the R pickup of 1896 having actually lost R-carried states by the Rs’ losing 1892 incumbent, Benjamin Harrison.).

            1968 — and, for that matter, 1960 — are elections in which pickup winners (D, in 1960; R, in 1968) did not carry a given state their losing party’s candidate won in the previous election. But such states did not revert back to the party that, in those elections, lost the White House. (Second place doesn’t count!)

            “In 1964 the candidate (Goldwater) and the unique circumstances (most notably the Civil Rights legislation in congress)…”

            Yes, 1964 was an election when Vermont and the deep south pair Alabama and Mississippi voted opposite their normal colors (up to that point). 1964 was also a presidential election which resulted in the incumbent party having prevailed (with a full term for Lyndon Johnson).

            “Again, you’re assuming that trends are consistent across all demographic and geographic groups. They rarely are.”

            In presidential years which result in flipping the party — Democratic to Republican; Republican to Democratic — they are not a rarity. The shifts are, in fact, decisive. Consistently directed away from the incumbent and toward the opposition party.

            “In another 18 states Obama increased the Democratic performance over 2004 but significantly below the nationwide increase of 4.6% Obama achieved over Kerry’s popular vote total. “

            Take the margin. John Kerry lost by –2.46%. Barack Obama, a Democratic pickup with 2008, won by 7.26%. Shift was D+9.72%. Go over the states, one by one, and all 19 (plus District of Columbia) shifted their Democratic support further north for Obama. National shift was 9.72%, yes, but I did not say a consistency that is more in line with uniformity would have to play out. (That all states shift exactly the same.)

            “Even if Mitt Romney were to win the election and even increase the GOP margin of victory in Arizona, there is no reason to assume it would correspond to the nationwide average.”

            No assumption on my part. Recognition, actually, that it is a normal pattern. Just do some math.

            2012 Scenario — Republican presidential pickup:
            • McCain (2008 loss): –7.26%
            • Romney (2012 pickup): +0.75%
            • National shift (from 2008): R+8.01%

            Arizona — last five elections:
            • 1992: R+1.95
            • 1996: D+2.23 (pickup for re-elected Democat Bill Cinton)
            • 2000: R+6.28 (pickup with likewise pickup GOP George W. Bush)
            • 2004: R+10.47
            • 2008: R+8.48

            National Margin:
            • 1992: D+5.56 (D pickup, with Bill Clinton)
            • 1996: D+8.52 (Clinton, re-elected)
            • 2000: D+0.52 (R pickup, with George W. Bush)
            • 2004: R+2.46 (Bush, re-elected)
            • 2008: D+7.26 (D pickup, with Barack Obama)

            Arizona — compared to the national margin:
            • 1992: R+7.51
            • 1996: R+5.69
            • 2000: R+6.80
            • 2004: R+8.01
            • 2008: R+15.74

            In 1988, George Bush Sr. carried Arizona by 21.21%. Given Bill Clinton had unseated him, in 1992, that made the D shift 19.26%.

            Arizona — which voted for all winners during its first five decades of elections (1910s through 1950s) — is a base state for the Republicans. It first voted 100 years ago, in 1912. Along with North Dakota and leading bellwether Ohio, there remains no record of a GOP president elected without having carried the state of Ariz.

            It is more than highly likely that the GOP tilt will remain with Ariz. And, if Mitt Romney unseats Obama, 2012 will not be different as Ariz. would be in column by a margin exceeding [Romney’s] national result. Ariz. — like most states in the nation (for presidencies which result in party switch) — would not be immune to the national shift.

          • D

            “Winifred Hancock”

            Ah … Winfield Hancock. (Sorry. : ) )

          • D

            ” • 1996: R+5.69 ”

            That should be:
            • 1996: R+6.29

  • http://govforliberty.blogspot.com Nick2253

    I’ve got another electoral map for you to add to your list.

    http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/electoral-map

    I don’t think, at the moment, it gives you anything new, but it’s not a bad one to keep an eye on, especially since Nate Silver will probably roll out his electoral model soon, and it will probably be hosted here.

  • Tom

    Hey,

    Thanks for this site – it’s really great. I’ve been having one issue though. Some friends of mine and I are having a pool for Election 2012. To do so, we’re picking which candidate we think is going to win each state, then emailing each other our maps (all on 270toWin–thanks!!). However, the last couple maps I received by email don’t reflect my friends’ picks, but instead just reflect the Battleground Map default. It’s also affecting older emails I received, that I know were filled out correctly at the time. I just looked at a URL for a map my friend sent me a week ago, and it now reflects the Battleground Map default instead.

    Is this a technical glitch? Do you know if it will be fixed soon?

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • Allan

      Not aware of any issues. Attempted to reply to your email; received an auto response that you no longer use the account. Please resend your email from an address to which we can reply. Thanks.

  • mark

    Time to update the map. North Carolina is giving Romney a big lead. so much for Obamas convention gamble in Charlotte.

  • Frank

    I don’t understand why Karl Rove and other polters are placing Texas and South Carolina as leaning Red when both States I believe have voted Republican at least for the last 30 years in presidential elections.

    • 270toWin

      Karl Rove’s map (as well as the 270toWin polling map at http://www.270towin.com/2012-election-polling-map/obama-romney/) are based exclusively on polls, which have been pretty limited thus far in Texas and South Carolina. As polling becomes more frequent this summer and fall, it is likely that these classifications will change.

  • mark

    New Quinnipiac poll with a very good D/R/I break down has Romney up 7 points in Florida. Time to update map yet?

  • Chris

    I think this website is pretty neat in giving the history of how states vote and using it to predict the next election.
    However, I find it hard to believe polls, you do not know who is doing the polling and whom they are asking and what they are asking. Also democrats and republicans both are going to rig the polls in their favor prior to an election. Do you think the NY times is going to come out and say yeah Romney is going to win Fla and Pa. Or the Wall street journal is going to endorse Obama, President who is obviously not pro business.
    I find this site more useful because it is based on history not what .

    My poll of myself feels Romney will win Fla, NC, NV, NJ and maybe NH.
    I think Obama will win Ohio, WI. Of the likely toss ups. I add NJ because of Christie being the Governor.

    • mark

      Chris,
      I think its great that you think for yourself. Realclearpolitics.com has every major poll and breaks them down to an average. very good website. as for the major polls and people rigging them, that is done by who they sample in their poll. it will be broken into D/R/I and is weighted by the pollster. Most of the polls excluding rassmussen heavily weight their samples with democrats to get the outcome they desire. My take on these polls is that Democrats are oversampled by 2-6 % and done on purpose. The correct breakdown should be the last major election cycle and the published results…

  • Steve

    The key is the economy. The election this year is about firing Obama and not hiring Romney. The economy was never close to being this screwed up in 1980 and Carter lost 45 states. As the election gets closer you will see the polls shifting away from Obama as the electorate see reality.

  • http://279towin.com roney

    man this is very educational it teaches alot to my students and there only in FIRST GRADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • claudia

    great vote!!!!

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