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Swing States, Battlegrounds and the 2012 Map

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
In examining the presidential map for 2012, there are eight swing states and five battleground states to keep an eye on, Stuart Rothenberg writes. New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado and Nevada are likely to be true swing states this cycle.

Everyone has an opinion about swing states. I figured it was time to explain how I see the presidential map.

My approach isnt based solely on statistics, though numbers matter a great deal. (I suppose this means that while I admire Oakland As general manager Billy Beanes approach to baseball, I also think that non-quantifiable considerations are part of the analytical mix.)

When I use the term swing states, I am referring to those states that in a neutral landscape are likely to be the closest and could well swing to one party or the other. Because they perform at or near the national margin, they give a good indication of the partisan direction of the cycle.

For my money, its meaningless to talk about presidential swing states in an electoral blowout, such as 1964 or 1972. I dont care which state gives the winner his 270th electoral vote if the race isnt close, though I can see why others would.

In trying to select this years swing states, I dont put much emphasis on the 2008 results. That was a wave election in which many states performed atypically.

Democrat Barack Obama ran so strongly nationally that he carried Indiana and North Carolina, states that simply dont pass the swing state smell test without the 2008 results. Of course, we have to consider the possibility that some states that behave unusually in any given election are doing so because they are in the middle of a fundamental partisan shift, but the 2008 election results alone dont prove that.

Unlike many, I regard swing states and battleground states as two different categories.

For me, battleground states are those that dont qualify as swing states but are potentially competitive. That usually means that the presidential campaigns spend resources there.

I see eight swing states: New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado and Nevada. And I see five battleground states: North Carolina, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota. Im not entirely comfortable with Michigan and Minnesota being on the list, but they dont belong in the same category as Connecticut and Maryland, either.

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