A lot of people say that Florida decided the 2000 Election, in the same way that they say that Ohio decided the 2004 Election. Certainly those states played a role, and the argument can be made that if things in those states had shaken out differently, so would the election, yet in actual fact there were other states which were just as critical, or more to the point, the 2008 campaign may be decided by the location of the key states this time around. It is important to look at every state as a possible win or loss. With that said, I do think we can look at the results of elections in the modern era and get a sense of what states will most likely be in play in 2008. By my calculations [which I will not go into here, except to observe that they are driven by election results and demographic trends], even the District of Columbia has only a 94% chance of landing in a certain fashion, and of the states no state shows greater than 80% chance of going a certain way. Sure, a candidate would like to hold the 80% share, but it does show that ‘certainty’ is a trap which the smart candidate will consider and avoid. Therefore, as a caveat before I go further, I would say I am using three shades of Red and Blue, and none of them absolute.
The deepest properties would be those states or that district which has gone for a certain party for at least the last 10 straight Presidential elections. For the Democrats, that would be the District of Columbia, worth 3 Electoral Votes (EV). For the Republicans, that would be the following states: Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Kansas, Alaska, South Dakota, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Those 11 states are worth 63 EV. Mathematically, that rather explains why Democrats who win Presidential races generally do not enjoy landslides.
The next-strongest group would be those states which have generally or clearly favored a party over the last 15 elections, but which also have gone for that same party the last 5 Presidential Elections (or 4 of the last 5, with another election decided by 1% of the vote or less). For the Democrats, that list would be Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, and Oregon. Those 8 states and 88 EV bring the Democrats up to 8 states, one district and 91 EV.
For the Republicans, that second list would be Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Those 5 states and 72 EV bring the Republicans up to 16 states and 135 EV, half of what they need to win the White House. They also keep the Republicans 44 electoral votes ahead of the Democrats at this point, with 26 states left to count.
The third-strongest group would be those states which have provided 50% or more of the popular vote in at least 9 of the last 15 Presidential Elections. For the Democrats, that list does not add a single state, but for the Republicans, that list adds the following states: Montana, Colorado, New Hampshire, and – oddly enough – Vermont! Those 4 states and 19 EV bring the Republican tally up to 20 states and 154 EV, and create a 63-vote lead for the Republicans with 22 states left to count.
OK, a 22-state field is still a large place, but we now have a true “starting position” for the race. Granted, even I find it unlikely to believe that New Hampshire and Vermont will go Red in 2008, so I will arbitrarily flip them Blue, and that gives us the following positions, regardless of the parties’ nominees:
Democrats: 10 states plus DC, 98 EV: 172 EV still needed
Republicans: 18 states, 147 EV: 123 EV still needed
If we next consider states which went 4-out-of-the-last-5 for a party, here’s what happens. The Democrats add Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, Michigan, New Jersey, Maine, and Iowa. Those 10 states and 160 EV bring the Democrats up to 20 states plus DC, and 258 EV, 14 EV needed to win.
For the Republicans, that condition adds Arizona and Georgia, 2 states and 25 EV. That brings the Republicans up to 20 states and 172 EV, or 98 EV needed to win with just 10 states left on the board.
Suddenly it looks like the Democrats have a commanding lead. Presuming we extend the last-5-election counter to allow for 3 of the last 5 with 1 under 1% margin, that puts Florida in the Republican tally, which I am inclined to do because of the positive ratings for Jeb Bush there, and the rotten efforts by the Democrats there. That raises the Republicans to 21 states and 199 EV, 71 EV away from a win with 9 states left to look at.
And that’s your battlefield for 2008. Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, and West Virginia.
I can winnow that down some more by looking again the histories of those states:
Ohio: 10 of the last 15 elections went for the Republican, 4 for the Democrat. The Republican claimed 50%+ 8 times, the Democrat 1 time.
Tennessee: 8 of the last 15 elections went for the Republican, 5 for the Democrat. The Republican claimed 50%+ 6 times, the Democrat 2 times.
Kentucky: 9 of the last 15 elections went for the Republican, 5 for the Democrat. The Republican claimed 50%+ 8 times, the Democrat 3 times.
Those three states will go Republican, unless something happens which makes all the other histories unreliable. That brings the scoreboard up to this tally:
Democrat: 20 states plus DC, 258 EV, 14 EV needed to win
Republican: 24 states, 238 EV, 34 EV needed to win
Still At Stake:
Missouri (11 EV), 8-5 Republican in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 5-3 GOP 50%+
Louisiana (9 EV), 8-7 Republican in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 8-3 GOP 50%+
Arkansas (6 EV), 8-6 Democrat in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 7-5 Dem 50%+
Nevada (5 EV), 10-5 Republican in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 6-2 GOP 50%+
West Virginia (5 EV), 10-5 Democrat in last 15, 3-2 Democrat in last 5, 7-5 Dem 50%+
So, who can win those five states? That might decide it all.