Home | Opinion | Columnists | Markos Moulitas

Swing
states

In 2008, Oregon and Washington — which had for years been considered swing states in presidential elections — emerged as near-solid Democratic cornerstones. President Obama won both states by an identical 17 points, and no one pretends they’ll be in play this year. On the flip side, Arkansas and West Virginia became solid red states, while Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia achieved coveted battleground status.

The early polling this year indicates that a few more traditional swing states could be moving solidly into the Democratic column.

ADVERTISEMENT
Most obviously, New Mexico’s electoral votes are in no serious danger of going anything but blue. Obama won the state by 15 points in 2008, but it still merited watching since George W. Bush won it in 2004. Now a rash of recent polling shows the same 15-point Obama lead. 

Similarly, Obama won Nevada by 12 points in 2008, and all recent surveys show the incumbent winning easily with over 50 percent of the vote. Given its uncommonly engaged Latino electorate (as still-Sen. Harry Reid can attest), this will be rough territory for Mitt Romney.

Colorado might not be far from graduating from swing-state status as well. Obama scored an easy 10-point victory in 2008, and recent polling by Public Policy Polling has Obama leading Romney 53-40. It’s important to note that PPP is the only pollster to have surveyed the race in over a year, but based on the limited information at our disposal, it appears that Obama might not have anything to worry about in Colorado.

Still, a number of the 2004 and 2008 battleground states continue to appear to be very competitive. 

Surprisingly, that includes Missouri. It’s the only swing state that John McCain won in 2008, and given the erosion in Obama’s standing since 2008, it would seem logical to assume Missouri would be safely Republican this year. The state sports below-national averages in the demographics that drive the Obama coalition — African-Americans, Latinos, young voters and college graduates. While 63.7 percent of all Americans are non-Hispanic whites, that number is 81 percent in Missouri. Yet a recent survey from the GOP’s favorite pollster, Rasmussen, found Romney leading by just 48-45. The state might lean red, but it’s still in play. 

Missouri’s mirror opposite might be Michigan, which Obama won by 16 points in 2008 and doesn’t feel very swingy this year. But recent polling is mixed — several surveys have shown another Obama blowout, while a couple have the race in single digits. 

The only somewhat recent poll out of Indiana, in early March, found Romney leading Obama 49-40 in the Hoosier State. It doesn’t feel like it should be competitive this year, but then again, no one expected it to be competitive in 2008. And as is the case with Colorado, it’s hard to get a clear picture without greater pollster diversity.

One new state is set to become a key battleground. Arizona is now competitive for the same reason Colorado and Nevada are becoming solidly blue — Latino voters. Obama lost Arizona in 2008 by just eight points with McCain on the ballot, and two April polls now show the race neck and neck.

Looking further ahead, a recent PPP poll showed Romney with just a 7-point lead in Texas. The GOP’s dominance in the state is being eroded by the state’s explosive Latino population, which opts for Obama by a 56-34 margin. That won’t be enough for this year, but look for Texas to join the swing-state club in 2016.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).