Election News

DNC Announces Qualifying Criteria for February 7 Debate

Qualifying criteria for the next candidate debate have been announced by the Democratic National Committee.  The debate will take place February 7, four days before the New Hampshire primary.  Candidates can make the stage by meeting either a Delegate Threshold or what the Committee is calling an Alternate Threshold.

The Delegate Threshold is new and seems pretty straightforward. Candidates that earn one or more of the 41 available pledged delegates in the February 3 Iowa caucuses qualify for the debate.  

The Alternate Threshold is a renaming of the Polling plus Fundraising requirement in place for the most recent debate. These requirements have changed very little.  

Candidates must have at least 225,000 individual donors, with a minimum of 1,000 unique donors from at least 20 states.  This is unchanged from January's requirement, so all six hopefuls on the stage for this past Tuesday's debate have already met this criteria.

Candidates using the Alternate Threshold must also meet a polling requirement. There are two pathways here.  The first requires 5% support in four1 qualifying national or early state polls. Alternately, candidates can see at least 7% support in two qualifying early state polls.  This is also unchanged, with one exception. As the Iowa caucuses will have been completed, the Committee is defining early states as New Hampshire (February 11), Nevada (February 22) and South Carolina (February 29). Polls must be from DNC-accredited pollsters and be released from December 13, 2019 through February 6. 

The February 7 debate will take place at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. It will air nationally on ABC. Two other debates are scheduled later in the month  Candidates will meet February 19 in Las Vegas, prior to the Nevada caucuses on the 22nd. On the 25th, there will be a debate in Charleston, South Carolina, in advance of that state's February 29 primary.

1 Each of the four polls must be from a different pollster or, if by the same pollster, must be in different geographical areas.



Minnesota First State to Begin In-Person Early Voting for 2020 Primaries

Although the official kick-off of the 2020 election calendar is Iowa on February 3, early in-person voting gets underway Friday in Minnesota.  The state's early voting period begins 46 days prior to an election. Vermont follows Saturday. Both states will hold their primaries on Super Tuesday, March 3. 

Some absentee ballots have been mailed in New Hampshire and North Carolina. Many more states will provide in-person and/or absentee early voting in the weeks ahead. 

The vote-by-mail period in delegate-rich California begins February 3, the same date as the Iowa caucuses. It continues until February 25, a week before that state's March 3 primary.

Liz Cheney Passes on Senate Run, Will Remain in House

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming will not run for the state's open U.S. Senate seat this year.  Cheney will remain in the U.S. House where she has experienced a rapid rise through the GOP ranks. 

Sen. Mike Enzi announced last year that he would not seek a 5th term this year. Despite Cheney's decision, Republicans are heavily favored to retain the seat. The frontrunner for the GOP nomination appears to be former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who held the state's at-large congressional seat for four terms before retiring in 2016.

Separately, Sabato's Crystal Ball updated two Senate ratings for 2020. They moved New Hampshire from Leans to Likely Democratic, while Virginia goes from Likely to Safe Democratic.   We've updated their interactive map to reflect these changes.

Cory Booker Drops Presidential Bid

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey ended his presidential bid Monday.  Despite campaigning for nearly a year - entered the race last February 1 - he had been averaging only 2-3% nationally and in the four early states. While that placed him ahead of several candidates in the still-large field, it was no longer enough to qualify him for the debate stage. 

As the New York Times notes, "the departure of Mr. Booker from the crowded Democratic field, heralded at the outset as the most diverse in history, leaves just one African-American candidate, Deval Patrick, vying for the Democratic nomination in a party where black voters are an essential bloc of the Democratic base." Effectively, that means the party will not have a black nominee this year as Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor, has received close to 0% support in polling.

12 candidates remain in the race. Six of them will face-off in Tuesday's debate in Iowa, which comes just shy of three weeks before that state holds its 2020 caucuses.

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The Road to 270: Idaho

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.



Through the Revolutionary War and American Independence, much of North America was still unexplored by Europeans or their descendants. This included the territory that would eventually become Idaho. Lewis and Clark first explored the region in 1805 which was, at the time, home to about 8,000 Native Americans.  

Quickly following the expedition, settlers began arriving in the region. Missionaries, farmers, fur traders, and miners traveled along the Oregon Trail and many settled in the territory that would later become Idaho. Ownership of the land was initially disputed, as it was claimed by both Britain and the United States. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 brought the dispute to an end. Two years later, the United States established the Oregon Territory, which comprised today’s Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and eastern portions of Montana and Wyoming.

In 1853, the Washington Territory took over all of the Oregon Territory except for the region we now know as Oregon. With the discovery of gold, and later the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the population of the region grew and in 1863 the United States established the Idaho Territory. It originally comprised modern day Idaho as well as nearly all of Montana and Wyoming. Soon, the territory shed most of the future Montana and Wyoming, and by 1868 Idaho had the boundaries of the modern state.

The territory was divided between the north and south. The north was composed mostly of settlers who had come to the territory as miners and loggers. Meanwhile, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) settled the southern and eastern portion of the state. Many of these Mormons had migrated from Utah.

Over time, the north became anti-Mormon, a divide that continued to grow through the 1880s. The antipathy led to the passage of the Idaho Test Oath Act in 1884. The Act was meant to deny Mormons, who made up about a quarter of the electorate and voted overwhelmingly Democratic, the right to vote.

After the restrictions were implemented, the territory became staunchly Republican. Intent on adding a Republican leaning state to the Union, national Republicans began to push for statehood in 1888. Two years later, in 1890, Congress and Benjamin Harrison admitted Idaho as the 43rd state. 

The anti-Mormonism of the 1880s was nothing new for the Republican Party. In 1856, the National Republican Platform named polygamy and slavery the “twin relics of barbarism.” Polygamy was a relatively common practice among Mormons, and the platform, as well as the aforementioned Act, were clear messages opposing this lifestyle.

The Act was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1890.  Following that, the leader of the Church encouraged his followers to acquiesce to civil laws regarding marriage. The state legislature responded by repealing the anti-Mormon voting restrictions in 1893. From then on, Mormons in Idaho were free to vote and hold elected office.

Presidential Election History

These new voters, and a populist groundswell, upset the Republican Party’s expectation that Idaho would lean Republican from the beginning. In fact, it wasn’t until the state’s fourth election in 1904 that Idaho would vote Republican on the presidential level. The first three elections show the state’s populist roots and the power of the newly enfranchised Mormon population.

At the time of the 1892 presidential election, Idaho was still divided between Republicans in the north and anti-Republican Mormons in the south. Voting laws would be in place for another year, greatly restricting Mormons’ right to vote in the south. But a populist sentiment had been growing among the silver miners and farmers who supported moving away from the gold standard. The Republican nominee, Benjamin Harrison, supported the gold standard. The Democratic nominee, Grover Cleveland, didn’t run in Idaho, allowing support to coalesce around the Populist Party’s candidate James Weaver. Weaver beat Harrison by 10% in Idaho, validating Cleveland's decision not to run in the state.

Idaho followed a similar trend in the next two elections of 1896 and 1900. In these elections Idaho’s populist and Mormon voters together gave the populist Democrat, William Jennings Bryan1, resounding victories in the state. In 1896, Bryan beat William McKinley by 57% in Idaho even as he lost the national popular vote by 3%. Four years later, McKinley was coasting to a second term on a strong economy and victory in the Spanish-American War. The incumbent also had the progressive, energetic, and popular Theodore Roosevelt as a running mate. Nevertheless, Bryan won Idaho again, though with a smaller margin of 4%.

Four years later, in 1904, Republicans finally carried Idaho. Theodore Roosevelt ran as a progressive Republican and won Idaho with a 40% margin. While the state would vote for Democrats in future elections, they were generally either landslide elections or unique circumstances.

The only Democratic presidential nominee to win Idaho between 1904 and 1928 was Woodrow Wilson. Wilson won the state in 1912 due to Theodore Roosevelt splitting the Republican vote and again in 1916 when he ran on keeping the United States out of World War I. Otherwise, Idaho, along with most northern states, voted regularly for the Republican nominee. The state’s progressive and independent streak was also present throughout the first quarter of the century, as socialist candidates received 7%, 11% and 6% in 1908, 1912, and 1916. The Progressive Party candidate Robert La Follette received 37% of Idaho votes in 1924, outpacing the Democratic nominee by over 20%. 

In 1932, with the realigning election of Franklin Roosevelt, Idaho swung back to the Democratic Party. This was also the first election since statehood in which Idaho elected a Democratic Representative to the House. As with other farming states, Idaho had suffered during the Great Depression. The average Idahoan’s income dropped 49% between 1929 and 1932, placing it behind just six other states in that grim ranking. FDR’s New Deal appealed to the struggling population and won him a blanket victory in the Mountain West states. These western and northern farming states generally received the most in New Deal expenditures per capita during the 1930s. 

While Idaho continued to vote Democratic on the presidential level through 1948, by 1940 the state’s rightward trend is apparent. The Democratic margins between each election from 1936 to 1948 were 30%, 9%, 3.5%, and 2.7%. In 1952, the moderate Eisenhower carried Idaho by 31%. From this election on, Idaho would vote for the Republican nominee with one exception in the Democratic landslide of 1964. Since then, no Democratic nominee has received more than 37% of the popular vote in the state.

However, beginning in the 1930s and lasting through the 1970s, Idahoans were willing to split their tickets. With the exception of 1951 – 1956, Idaho had at least one Democratic U.S. Senator from 1933 through 1980. Similarly, Idaho elected several Democratic House members through much of the mid-century.

As the parties began to sort along religious lines in the 1970s, Democrats started losing their downballot power in Idaho. Mormons, put off by the Democratic Party’s embrace of socially liberal policies like abortion and gay rights, steadily shifted towards the Republican Party. The decline of the union heavy mining and timber industries also undercut Democratic power and organizing strength in the state. And while Democrats did have a brief period of electoral success from 1988 to 1990, this died off quickly and voters quickly fell back in line as Republicans.

As the parties continued to sort ideologically, racially, and demographically, Idaho moved further right.  Following the 1992 midterms, only one Democrat — in a 2008 House race — would win a federal election in Idaho.

A State in-Flux

Over the past 30 years, Idaho’s population has nearly doubled, growing from 1 million to 1.8 million. In 2019, Idaho was the fastest growing state in the nation by percentage. It grew by 2.1%, outpacing the runner up, Nevada, by 0.4%. People are moving to Idaho for jobs in the booming tech industry, an affordable cost of living, and the state’s natural beauty.

The population boom originally worried conservatives. They believed that people moving in from neighboring states including California, Washington, and Oregon would bring west coast liberalism with them. This didn’t ensue, as many of the new Idahoans were leaving their homes for cultural reasons and fit nicely into the more libertarian ethos of Idaho’s Republican Party.

While the growth hasn’t transformed Idaho’s politics, it has changed the character of the state. The potato-farming, religious, rural Idaho has become a center for innovation and startups. The state ranks high among various indicators of entrepreneurship and has one of the highest number of patents per capita in the country.  The industry leaders in Idaho — Micron, Hewlett-Packard, Simplot — have helped built a techy, entrepreneurial ecosystem in the capital city, Boise.

Unlike the Silicon Valley in California, Boise is not a liberal bastion. The entrepreneurs and startups were drawn to the state's less restrictive regulatory environment and low taxes, and generally support the Republican Party’s mission to that end.

Current Political Landscape

Since the turn of the century, no presidential Democratic candidate has come within 25% of winning Idaho and its four Electoral College votes. The GOP nominee won in 2008 by 25%, in 2012 by 32%, and in 2016 by 32%. 

Donald Trump received 5% less of the vote in Idaho than Mitt Romney did in 2012. Most of this vote went to Evan McMullin, the third-party candidate who won 7% of the state. McMullin, who is Mormon himself, had the greatest appeal among Idaho’s Mormon voters who are clustered in the southeast. McMullin outran Hillary Clinton in a total of seven counties, all of which are in this region of the state. Of these counties, he ran strongest in Madison County, winning 30% of the vote to Trump’s 57% and Clinton’s 8%.

This ongoing Republican dominance is in line with national trends. Idaho's population is 63% non-college white, the core of the Republican base. It’s also the 7th least densely populated state, with an average of just 22 people per square mile.

The state is also 40% Evangelical Protestant or Mormon. The Idaho Republican Party reflects this religious bent, with the preamble to the party’s platform beginning “We are Republicans because we believe the strength of our nation lies with our faith and reliance on God our Creator.” The socially conservative streak continues through the platform, which pushes legislators to “protect the traditional family”, opposes abortion, supports the death penalty, and encourages “swift and just punishment for the lawbreaker”. This Republican Party has a lock on the state legislature, holding ¾ of both chambers.

From statehood through the 1960s Idaho was politically competitive. In the current era of partisanship, however, Idaho has moved steadily into the GOP camp. This trend looks likely to continue in November, making Idaho a safely Republican state from the presidential election down to the Statehouse. 

1 No person has ever won more electoral votes without becoming president than William Jennings Bryan. He amassed 493 across three elections (1896, 1900 and 1908).

Next Week:  Vermont

Reports in this series:

Introducing the Interactive Delegate Calculator

Three weeks out from Iowa, the interactive portion of the 2020 Democratic Delegate Calculator is now live.  Starting with the polling average, where available, you can create a forecast for each primary or caucus.  You can also project withdrawal dates for those candidates that you don't think will be around at the end.  The changes you make will be immediately reflected in the delegate estimate for each candidate. 

Select the Based on Custom Calculator tab to create your forecast.

Regardless of the forecast you create, the Based on Polling Average tab will continue to reflect the delegate forecast based on the 270toWin Polling Average in each state. There's now an option, in both tabs, to use the national average where no state polling is available. 

Please use the General Feedback link at the bottom of the calculator page to let us know of any issues or any suggestions you might have to make it better.

Marianne Williamson Ends Presidential Bid

Author Marianne Williamson announced Friday that she is ending her bid for the Democratic nomination.  The news is not unexpected, coming about a week after she laid off her entire campaign staff. 

This leaves 13 candidates in the race to take on President Trump in November.  Six have qualified for next Tuesday's debate.

Strength in SC, NV Fox Polls Puts Tom Steyer in Next Week's Debate

New Fox News polls in Nevada and South Carolina showed activist Tom Steyer with double-digit support.  His strength in these two surveys has qualified him for the January 14 Democratic debate.  

Steyer is the 6th candidate to qualify. He'll join Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the stage. The deadline to qualify is Friday; no other candidates are likely to make it.  

Next week's debate is scheduled to be held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and will be hosted by CNN and The Des Moines Register.  It is the final debate before the Iowa caucuses on Monday, February 3.

Rep. Duncan Hunter Resigns from Congress

GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter of California has submitted his letter of resignation, effective Monday January 13.   The decision was expected; he had previously said he would resign shortly after the holidays.

Hunter guilty in December to a charge surrounding the misuse of campaign funds.

Under indictment at the time, Hunter narrowly won a 6th term in 2018. Contrast that to 2016, where he won by 27 points. Donald Trump won here by about 15 points over Hillary Clinton.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will call a special election to fill the remainder of Hunter's term. Given the demographics of the 50th congressional district, the consensus rating is Likely Republican.   Update:  The timing of Hunter's resignation doesn't leave enough time to hold a special election concurrent with the state's primary on March 3. As a result, the Governor has decided the seat will remain vacant through the end of this term.

The Road to 270: New York

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

New York

Last Monday, the Census Bureau released its national population estimates. This is the best resource we have for predicting congressional reapportionment that will take place following the 2020 Census. According to these projections, New York will lose one congressional seat, dropping from 27 to 26. Because Electoral College votes are apportioned to states according to the size of their congressional delegation (senators + representatives), New York will likely have 28 electoral votes in the 2024 and 2028 presidential contests instead of the 29 it has today.

This is not a new trend. At its peak in the 1930s and 1940s, New York had 47 electoral votes. It has lost at least two after every Census from 1950 through 2010. We can look at New York’s history and political legacy to understand why it’s expected to, once again, lose representation in Congress and the Electoral College.

Pre-Revolutionary New York

New York City stands on land that was discovered by Europeans in 1524 when Giovanni da Verrazzano first explored the eastern coast of North America. While a fur trade between Native Americans and Europeans began, it took 100 years for the first large group of Europeans to arrive in the region. The settlement was called New Amsterdam and was a part the Dutch colony, New Netherland.

Like New York City today, New Amsterdam was diverse. It was home to Europeans of various nationalities, Christians, Jews, Muslims, enslaved Africans, free Africans, and Native Americans. It was small, though, making it vulnerable to aggression. In 1664, when the English claimed control over the city, the Dutch colonial governor Peter Stuyvesant was forced to surrender. King Charles II gave the new colony to his brother, the Duke of York.

New York was strategically located for the English. It connected the northern and southern colonies, acted as a gateway to the continent’s interior through the Hudson River, and became a popular trading port. However, it was not the most populous of the 13 original colonies. By U.S. independence in 1776, it was the 5th largest.

Regardless of its size, New York played a fundamental role in the American Revolution and America’s early years. It was a home to anti-British sentiment and organizations like The Stamp Act Congress and The Sons of Liberty. The state’s constitution was eventually used as a framework for the U.S. Constitution. And New York City was the nation’s first capital and where The Bill of Rights was written.

After the Revolution

New York’s importance to the new nation would continue to grow for the next 150 years. Home to the New York Stock Exchange, New York City was fated to become America’s financial capital. The state’s convenient location for trade, population of hard-working immigrants, and entrepreneurial spirit also made it a natural home for manufacturing.

Job growth and immigration made New York’s expansion unstoppable in the late 19th and early 20th century. Starting during the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s, millions of immigrants began to arrive at the ports in New York. Ellis Island, which opened in 1892 as an immigration station, became a symbol of New York’s international, immigrant-based culture and economy. Many of these new U.S. citizens settled in the city, building upon its diverse, hardscrabble culture.

By World War I, New York was the nation’s economic powerhouse. The city was home to Wall Street, the nation’s biggest banks, and their associated financial industries. Nowhere roared louder during the Roaring Twenties than New York City. Meanwhile, suburban and upstate New York housed innovative and high-tech companies including GE, IBM, Kodak and Xerox.

Great Depression and War

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and successive Great Depression devastated New York. Reports of Wall Street brokers jumping from skyscrapers (regardless of their veracity) illustrate the atmosphere in New York City following the market crash. At the depths of the depression, about one quarter of the state was unemployed.

World War II was a boon for the state’s economy. As the most populous state and already home to manufacturing industry, New York was a natural center for defense and wartime manufacturing as well. Through this period, and up until the 1970s, immigration into New York continued to flow. Between 1930 and 1970, the state’s population grew by 45%, from 12.6 million to 18.2 million1. Towards the end of the century, though, New York’s status as an ever-growing state would falter.

By the 1970s, poor financial management brought New York City within hours of bankruptcy. This forced job and spending cuts. About 1 million people moved from the city during the decade. Twenty years later, in the 1990s, a recession would hit New York hard and force a restructuring of the economy. The state shifted away from manufacturing towards becoming a cultural capital with more jobs in the knowledge and service industries. While big upstate companies like Xerox and IBM lost influence, Wall Street and the city were again booming by the late 1990s. Demographic change happened alongside this economic shift as older white, blue collar workers left for less expensive regions of the country and younger immigrants and minorities moved into the city.

The New Century

The September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center drew New York into another economic slump. Companies that were previously centralized in New York City dispersed their workforce and 200,000 jobs left the city in 2001 and 2002. Six years later, in 2008, the Great Recession would hit. The financial industry, the epicenter for the tanking economy, took another blow.

New York saw an uneven recovery from the recession. While the financial sector and New York City rebounded, Upstate New York’s revival has been weak or nonexistent. New York City added over 700,000 jobs between 2009 and 2017 in the business, health care, hospitality, and finance sectors. Upstate New York’s private job growth rate, however, was less than one third that of the city’s. Of the 1.1 million private sector jobs created in New York between 2010 and 2018, 985,000 (or 88%) of them are were in New York City, Long Island, or the Lower Hudson Valley.

Population changes followed a similar trajectory. While New York City grew by 2.7% between 2010 and 2019, the rest of the state saw a net population loss of about 1%. In fact, New York saw the largest population loss between 2018 and 2019 of any state in the nation. Even New York City’s population growth has plateaued and started to decline. People are leaving New York for sunnier locales like Florida or for less expensive options in the metro area, like New Jersey.

Presidential Politics Through History

With this historical backdrop, we can look at New York’s political and electoral record. The state’s urban and rural split has been key to this electoral history. Because parties have often been divided along regional lines, these dueling constituencies have often kept New York balanced and competitive. 

1789 - 1820

These first elections, when competitive, usually split the country into two voting blocks. There was New England, with its business and manufacturing interests, and the south, with its agrarian and farming concerns. The former states generally preferred the Federalist Party, which advocated for a bigger federal government. The latter supported the Democratic-Republican Party, which promoted states’ rights and less federal interference.

New York — geographically positioned between New England and the south and split between an agrarian upstate and commercial city — didn’t fit neatly into either voting bloc. Generally, though, the state’s electors2 cast their votes for the Democratic-Republican Party, the party of the south and a smaller federal government. Between 1796 and 18203, New York cast its electoral votes for the Democratic-Republican party five of seven times. This is partly because of the state’s rural, plain regions aligned with Democratic-Republicans, partly because the Democratic-Republicans were usually dominant during this period, and partly because both parties frequently placed New Yorkers on the ballot as a way to win over the swing state.

Also important to Democratic-Republican victories was Tammany Hall, New York City’s political machine that influenced state politics through the 1930s. It was originally founded in 1789 to oppose the Federalist Party. In later decades, though, it would dominate New York City’s Democratic Party and claim to represent the city’s working class and immigrant populations. Perhaps most significantly, though, Tammany Hall would become famous for corruption, bribery, and patronage.

1824 - 1852

The 1824 election featured four candidates from the Democratic-Republican Party. While Andrew Jackson won the national popular vote, he did not win a majority in the Electoral College. John Quincy Adams ended up winning the contingent election in the House of Representatives, likely due to a “corrupt bargain” in which he promised to nominate Speaker of the House Henry Clay as Secretary of State. New York’s congressional delegation cast their collective vote for the winner, Adams.

Four years later, with Andrew Jackson’s creation of the Democratic Party, national coalitions again shifted. Generally, the Democratic Party advocated for a smaller government while the Whig Party favored a federal government with power centralized in Congress rather than the presidency. Starting in 1828, New York began to cast its electoral votes by popular vote. From this election through 1852, New York was again competitive and bounced between the two parties. The popular vote swung to the Democratic Party five times and the Whig Party twice.

1856 – 1928

By 1856, the question of slavery had come to dominate national politics. On this, New York was on the side of abolitionists. The Republican Party, formed primarily as a vehicle to oppose slavery, took hold of New York for nearly a century. From 1856 to 1928 New York voted for the Republican nominee in nearly every election4.  Around the turn of the century, New York politics was dominated by the progressivism of the era. Voters generally supported local and national candidates who advocated for progressive labor laws, unions, and better government services5

1932 – 1936

By 1932, New York had been hollowed out by the Great Depression which had happened under the watch of Herbert Hoover’s Republican administration. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition, which brought together labor unions, city political machines, minorities, urban intellectuals and farmers, shifted New York to the Democratic Party.

1940 – 1988

The state’s urban and rural split would again make it closely divided and competitive in presidential elections. Of the 13 elections between 1940 and 1988, eight were decided by less than six percent. The state voted for Roosevelt in his reelections of 1940 and 1944, but flipped back to Republicans in 1948, 1952, and 1956. Then, from 1960 until 1988, the state leaned slightly towards Democrats, only going red in the Republican landslides of 1972, 1980, and 1984.

1992 - 2016

Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 was a watershed year for New York. It marked the end of New York’s status as a swing state. In that election, Clinton dominated Republican George H.W. Bush with a 16 percent margin. The Democratic margin has been higher than that in the six subsequent elections. As the minority voting bloc grew, Jews aligned behind the Democratic Party, white Catholics drifted leftward on cultural issues, and as urban and suburban regions became more Democratic, New York turned from a battleground to Democratic territory. 

Recent Presidential Election Landscape

The past three presidential elections in New York have been landslides. In 2008, Barack Obama carried the state by 27%. He expanded that lead to 28% in 2012, even as the national environment shifted 2% rightward. Hillary Clinton’s margin in 2016 was smaller than Obama’s, as she won with a 22% margin over Donald Trump.

Both Clinton and Trump, however, received more raw votes in New York than their counterparts in 2012. Trump got over 300,000 more votes than Mitt Romney, mostly from Long Island, Staten Island, and rural upstate counties. Clinton, on the other hand, expanded Obama’s total number of votes by about 70,000. While she earned about 230,000 more votes than Obama in New York City and its Long Island and Westchester County suburbs, she underperformed his total in the rest of the state by about 160,000.

Trump flipped 19 counties that Obama won in 2012, 17 of which were in Upstate New York. The other two — Richmond and Suffolk County — comprise Staten Island and the eastern half of Long Island. The trend in New York mirrors that of the nation: urban areas shifting further to Democrats, rural areas shifting to the GOP, and suburban areas acting as the battlegrounds. 

But Trump’s improvement is relative. He still lost the state by 22% and as people continue to leave rural regions in favor of cities and suburbs, New York will likely continue to trend blue. The state may have once been a closely contested presidential battleground, but that status has long passed. As it has for the past eight elections, New York is all but certain to go blue in November. 

1 This may seem at odds with the state losing electoral votes beginning in the 1950s.  It occurred because the population in other places began to grow even more quickly. As the number of congressional districts is fixed at 435, it is the relative change in each state's population that impacts gain or loss in representation (and thus electoral votes).

2 Through 1824, presidential electors were chosen by the state legislature. 

3 New York did not cast electors in the 1789 election due to a deadlocked state legislature. 1792 is not included because George Washington eschewed political parties.

4 There were five exceptions, four of which occurred where the Democratic nominee was a former New York governor (1868, 1876, 1884, 1892). In 1912, former Gov. Theodore Roosevelt ran on a 3rd party ticket, splitting the Republican vote.

5 During this period, both parties pursued relatively progressive policies. The split between them was more regional, a vestige of the Civil War. 

Next Week:  Idaho

Reports in this series: