Everyone has an opinion about swing states. I figured it was time to explain how I see the presidential map.
My approach isnít based solely on statistics, though numbers matter a great deal. (I suppose this means that while I admire Oakland Aís general manager Billy Beaneís approach to baseball, I also think that non-quantifiable considerations are part of the analytical mix.)
When I use the term ďswing states,Ē I am referring to those states that in a ďneutralĒ 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, itís meaningless to talk about presidential swing states in an electoral blowout, such as 1964 or 1972. I donít care which state gives the winner his 270th electoral vote if the race isnít close, though I can see why others would.
In trying to select this yearís swing states, I donít 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 donít 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 donít prove that.
Unlike many, I regard swing states and battleground states as two different categories.
For me, battleground states are those that donít 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. Iím not entirely comfortable with Michigan and Minnesota being on the list, but they donít belong in the same category as Connecticut and Maryland, either.
Most of the swing states are an easy call. Iowa, for example, went narrowly for Al Gore in 2000 and narrowly for George W. Bush four years later. Obama carried it by 9.5 points, a little more than a couple of points over his national margin of 7.2 points. New Hampshire flipped from a narrow Bush state in 2000 to one narrowly carried by Sen. John Kerry, a New Englander, in 2004. Both times the outcome in the Granite State was close.