Swing States, Demographics, and why it’s going to be close.

By Gates McGavick ’15

This Presidential election, one of the closest ones in recent memory, will be decided on November 6th. Most polls show President Obama and his challenger, Governor Romney, tied up across the board. Each candidate has succeeded in holding on to their ‘bases’, (blocs of voters who characteristically support one side or the other). Indeed, this election will come down to the undecided demographics and states.

Most states vote along clear party lines, and have done so for a while. For example, Washington and Massachusetts usually vote democrat, whereas states like Georgia and Texas are characteristically republican.  While states the outcomes of states like these can usually be easily predicted, there are always a few ‘swing states’- states that polls show to be very close. This year, we are looking at 9 major swing states: Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Each one, most notably Ohio and Florida, are rich in electoral votes and thus important to the election.  Some of these states lean slightly more for one candidate than the other–  North Carolina is favoring Romney, while Pennsylvania polls predict an Obama win. However, the overall feeling is that these states are all up for grabs, and that whoever can take the most of them will win the election.

Along with undecided states, there are certain blocs of voters that are important to elections, blocs of voters that haven’t generally committed to one candidate. Right now, the focus is on the women. The past few months have shown women to represent a large and critical demographic, a demographic that hasn’t yet completely committed. Right now, Obama holds a lead in polls among women- 50% to Romney’s 44%. However, that lead is too small to represent any certainty- at this point, the all -important female votes are pretty much up for grabs.

Of course, the election as a whole is far more nuanced and complex, and can’t be boiled down to a matter of swing states or undecided demographics. However, there’s no denying that these two factors are important- wildly important. Indeed, since 1944, the state of Ohio has only once gone to a losing candidate (Nixon, who lost to Kennedy in 1960). It’s clear that Ohio is a critical prize, and this is being shown as we speak—over the past month or so, Obama and Romney have spent more time in Ohio than almost any other state.

These swing states are always important, but right now they are absolutely imperative for victory, and a bigger piece of the pie than usual. Why? Well, because over the last 8 months or so, we’ve seen a remarkably close race born of a clear juxtaposition.  The last four years of Democratic leadership have not been disastrous, but not a roaring success either. This would normally lead to a change in leadership. However, instead of cleaning house, the Republicans are in some ways being held back by an imperfect candidate.

The debates were not enough to tell us much of anything, and the vice presidential choices of current VP Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan aren’t shocking enough to really change the race, a la Sarah Palin. We’ve witnessed a hard fought race in which Romney, after a few months of lagging behind, has closed the gap to catch up to the President. The stage has been set for a barn burner, and it happens on Nov. 6.

I know I’ll be watching.

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