One way would be to look at the states with the biggest population (and, therefore, the most representatives.
California: 55 Illinois: 21 Michigan: 17 Texas: 34 Pennsylvania: 21 Georgia: 15 New York: 31 Ohio: 20 N. Carolina: 15 Florida: 27 New Jersey: 15 This adds to 271. In other words, it is possible for a candidate to win the presidency while losing 40 of 51 of the state elections!
Why not simply campaign in these eleven states?
Candidates carefully study historical voting patterns and opinion polling in order to decide in which states to actively contest by purchasing advertising time and making appearances.
Certain states can be expected to deliver large majorities to one party or the other.
It can be reasonably expected that in 2008… Source: Office of the Secretary of State of California Source: Office of the Secretary of State of Texas Source: RealClearPolitics.com Source: RealClearPolitics.com The Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden will win California’s 55 electoral votes. The Republican candidate John McCain and Sarah Palin will win Texas’s 34 electoral votes.
Therefore, it does not make sense for either candidate to campaign in either state.
Only in a few states is the outcome uncertain. These states are known as the ‘ swing states ’ because a small change in voter sentiment could ‘swing’ the outcome from one candidate to the other.
These states are also known as the ‘ battleground states ’ because they are the recipients of the most attention by the presidential candidates.
In theory, one vote could decide whether or not a candidate wins all of a state’s electoral votes.
Close margins have occurred: the 2000 election became infamous because George W. Bush won Florida’s 25 electors by 537 votes (a margin of victory of 0.009%).
One good way to tell is to track where candidates are appearing and spending money.
Appearances by George Bush or John Kerry in the 5 weeks preceding Election Day 2004. One dollar sign ($) equals $1 million spent on television advertising by Bush/Cheney or Kerry/Edwards in the 5 weeks preceding Election Day 2004. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/2004CampaignAttention.png
Another way would be to do the ‘electoral math.’
In other words, assuming that each candidate wins in the states in which they are expected to receive a majority of the vote, which swing states do they need to win in order to achieve a total of 270 electors?
On Election Day in 2000, the major news networks decided to represent the states won by Democrats with blue and those won by Republicans with red .
Note that this is the opposite of the color schemes in most other democracies, where the leftist party is represented with red and the conservative party with blue.
This coloration leads to some confusion… In 2000, did George Bush really win an overwhelming majority? No – in fact, he received fewer overall votes than his principal opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Moreover, he won only 4 more electoral votes (out of 538) than his opponent. However, he did win more states, although the states that he won tended to have smaller populations (and, therefore, fewer electoral votes).
In this projection, the sizes of the states correspond to their relative populations. In this projection, small but densely populated states (Connecticut, New Jersey) appear larger than vast but lightly populated states (Montana, Idaho).
Compare two states Wyoming (three electoral votes) Rhode Island (four electoral votes) Original map Weighted by population http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/statecartredblueakhi.png
Similarly, states can be viewed by the number of electoral votes. 1 block = 1 electoral vote 2004 Election Results Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/Cartogram-2004_Electoral_Vote.gif .
However, each state is not entirely ‘red’ or ‘blue’
Both parties enjoy popular support in all states.
Hence, analysts speak of ‘purple’ areas that are neither Republican (‘red’) nor Democratic (‘blue’)
Votes by county, rated on a scale of Red = 100% Republican; Blue = 100% Democratic Source: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/ 2004 Election
Ohio (20 electoral votes) : Cleveland (north-east), Columbus (center) and their suburbs are Democratic strongholds, Cincinnati (south-west) and the rest of the state tends to vote Republican.
Florida (27 electoral votes) : Densely populated Miami and Palm Beach (south-east) vote strongly Democratic; Jacksonville (north-east), Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg (center-west) and the rest of the state lean Republican.
Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) : Philadelphia (south-east) and Pittsburgh (south-west) are Democratic strongholds, the rest of the state tends to vote Republican.
Winner by county in the 2004 election: Because of the number of electoral votes, three states receive a great deal of attention. Won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004 Won by Republican George Bush in 2004 Won by Republican George Bush in 2004 Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:United_States_presidential_election,_2004,_by_state .
Sources: http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS , http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Swing_states%2C_2004.svg . Map of states won in the 2004 presidential election with less than a 5% margin of victory. However, the question of which states ‘matter’ occupies much of the election-related political commentary.
Missouri Bellwether : Since 1904, the state has voted for the eventual winner in all but one election. The state is located at the geographic and cultural confluence between the Midwest and South and has demographics (e.g. income levels, urban/rural) close to those of the entire country. Therefore, support for a candidate in Missouri may indicate national approval.
Halloween masks : Because Election Day follows closely after Halloween, many people buy rubber masks depicting the candidates in order to dress up as them. The candidate whose mask has outsold his opponent’s has won every election since the concept was introduced in 1976.
Washington Redskins : Between 1944 and 2000, the outcome of the last home game before Election Day of the American football team presaged the outcome: if the team won, the incumbent party’s candidate would win; if the team lost, the opponent would win. This pattern was broken in 2004.
Kids Poll: Pre-election surveys by children’s magazine publisher Weekly Reader of its subscribers (who are under 18 and, therefore, ineligible to vote), have correctly predicted the outcome since polls began in 1956. Readers of rival Scholastic’s magazines have correctly predicted all but two elections since 1940.
Sources: Associated Press, Topeka Capital-Journal , Los Angeles Times Images: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/Map_of_USA_highlighting_Missouri.png , http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/39/Richard_Nixon_mask.jpg . Richard Nixon, the original presidential mask
Urban areas tend to support the Democratic Party (see map of Seattle). In 2004, the Democratic Kerry/Edwards ticket won more votes than Republican Bush/Cheney ticket in all cities with more than 500,000 people and half of cities with between 50,000 and 500,000 people. Rural areas tend to support Republican candidates.
Democrats have historically commanded strong majorities in the North-East (New England and Mid-Atlantic), while Republicans have historically received strong support in the American South and Midwest.
Sources: Seattle Times , “Urban Archipelago”
… but, of course, there are many, many more possible methods to predict the winner. Commonwealth Magazine ’s Ten Regions of US Politics: Winning tickets must receive the most votes in at least five of the regions. Statistical analysis of daily opinion polling from fivethirtyeight.com. Political futures on Intrade.com.
G.O.P. : ‘ G rand O ld P arty,’ referring to the Republicans
Soccer mom/NASCAR dad : Two of the numerous demographic profiles created by campaigns in an attempt to craft their message and win support. The first refers to suburban mothers who drive children to sports practices and are believed to care most about issues affecting families. The second refers to working-class men who enjoy watching car racing (NASCAR) or other action-oriented sports. Some are harmless, but many border on offensive cultural stereotypes.
October surprise : An unexpected news event that occurs shortly before the election that dramatically shifts public opinion.
G.O.T.V. : G et O ut t he V ote, referring to initiatives (both affiliated and unaffiliated with the parties) designed to register voters and ensure that they vote on Election Day
Veep : Vice President
Base : Voters who are extremely loyal to a particular party and would support any ticket that it nominates. Parties face the challenge of convincing members of the base to cast their ballot instead of not voting at all (voting is not compulsory in the US).
Undecided voter : Citizens who tell pollsters that they do not yet know who they will support. Parties devote considerable attention to determining the demographics of these people and crafting messages to attract them.
The preceding presentation is intended purely for educational purposes. It does not imply any support or endorsement.
Some stickier points (i.e. the special distribution of electors in Maine and Nebraska) has been omitted for simplicity. Don’t rely on this presentation if you’re looking to write a paper on the subject!
The presentation was created on October 26, 2008. All information is correct as of that date. No attempt will be made to update the information.
The presentation is intended for the public domain – usage rights are granted as long as the author is credited.