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Swing States, Battlegrounds and the 2012 Map

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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.

Of the five battleground states, only New Mexico has consistently produced close contests for the presidency. Like Iowa, New Mexico swung from Gore in 2000 to Bush in 2004. Four years later, it went for Obama by an overwhelming 15 points.

But Bush was unusually strong among Hispanics, so his showing in 2000 and 2004 could be misleading. And the GOPís problems with the growing Hispanic vote probably give Democrats more fundamental strength in the state. Given all of that, New Mexico doesnít belong with the swing states but is probably worth watching.

North Carolina and Pennsylvania certainly havenít performed as swing states. Obama won the Tar Heel State by three-tenths of a point while winning by more than 7 points nationally. And because the Democratic presidential nominees lost the state by more than a dozen points in 2000 and 2004, itís difficult to believe that state changed so dramatically and fundamentally to make it a swing state.

Of course, both parties have advertised there, and Democrats certainly would like to expand the playing field by putting North Carolina, the site of the partyís national convention in September, into play. So itís worth watching.

The same goes for Pennsylvania, which hasnít gone Republican in a presidential contest since 1988. Still, itís usually close enough ó recent Democratic nominees generally did about 4 points better in the Keystone State than they did nationally ó to pay attention to it.

In addition, the presidentís problems with working-class whites and older voters combine to make Pennsylvania more interesting than usual.

Presidential margins in 2000 and 2004 in both Michigan and Minnesota arenít all that different from those in Pennsylvania, and both of those states in the upper Midwest could see some action as Republicans seek to add normally Democratic-leaning states to the playing field. But if Obama is running even or very close in those states, he probably has bigger problems in true swing states.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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