Arizona and Georgia: Not swing states — yet
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Last Monday, the Clinton campaign announced that it would invest $2 million in advertising in the state of Arizona, and dispatch Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama to headline Essence Festival Obama shares tribute to Michelle to celebrate Mother's Day 111-year-old woman gets free tickets to see Michelle Obama book tour MORE, Bernie SandersBernie SandersHere are the potential candidates still eyeing 2020 bids Sanders unveils education plan that would ban for-profit charter schools Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off MORE and Chelsea Clinton to swing Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. A poll by the Arizona Republic conducted between October 10 and 15 showed a five-point Clinton lead. A Reuters/IPSOS poll showed Trump ahead by 4 points.

In Georgia, the lead has been shifting, with Trump holding slight 6 point lead in the most recent polling. Georgia and Arizona have long been Republican strongholds. Arizona has been uncompetitive in 11 of the last 13 elections, only favoring the Democrat in 1948 and 1996.

Georgia has been uncompetitive in 9 out of twelve elections since 1964, although the margin there was under 10 percent in 2008 and 2012. What’s going on? Have Georgia and Arizona become swing states?

Not yet. By swing state, I mean a state which is not only a campaign battleground, but also has been decided by less than five percentage points in the majority of elections since 1988, is usually a bellwether of the national vote in those elections, and has been swinging between red and blue in those elections. Georgia and Arizona have become battlegrounds in 2016, but they won’t be consistently swingable for another eight years. Only ten states currently qualify as swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina,

Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Even though Wisconsin has only flipped in gubernatorial elections, it is nevertheless a bellwether, and competitive in most presidential elections since 1988.

This year, Trump’s low favorability with Republican-leaning independents has creating an opening for Clinton. The Arizona Republic polls shows 8 percent of Arizona voters are undecided.

Likewise, 5.6 percent of Georgia’s voters are undecided. Trump’s unfavorability in Arizona stands at around 40 percent in the Arizona Republic’s poll. Reuters/IPSOS found 21 percent of Republicans saying Trump’s border wall is a “waste of money.” That does not sound like a lot of undecideds, but it is enough to swing the election. Many of the true swing states actually have fewer undecided voters. My university’s Quinnipiac University poll showed Colorado at 5 percent undecided, Florida with 4 percent undecided, Ohio with 2 percent undecided. 

Georgia and Arizona are not true swing states yet, but they are likely to be swing states in a few years. In both states, Democrats and Republicans have moved to near-parity, and independents have risen to about 18 percent. They are mirroring the national trends of a slight decline of conservatives and slight rise of liberals. Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina followed similar patterns on their way to becoming swing states. Each of them had a significant rise in the percentage of independents.

Georgia and Arizona also are following demographic shifts like Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada did before they became swing states. Virginia’s rate of urbanization since 1970s was double the national rate, as its suburbs gained ethnic diversity. Georgia, along with North Carolina, Florida and Virginia, is one of the top states in net migration population gain. Just as a swing state was created in Nevada with a huge influx of Californians, Arizona too is taking in Californians who are doubtful about Trump Both Georgia and Arizona are becoming more urban, and younger minority populations came to replace older Republican-leaning groups.

People are migrating in search of economic opportunities, and the new voters have fewer ties to the political parties.

It is in the ethnic dimensions where Arizona and Georgia are not quite ready to swing. African- Americans in Georgia have increased to 34 percent of the electorate but are offset by strong Republican support from whites. Even though the Latino population in Arizona has grown 53 percent since 2000, Latinos still only make up 16 percent of the electorate and only three-quarters of them voted for Obama in 2012. The number of Latino voters in Georgia has tripled since 2004, but Latinos still make up only 2 percent of the vote. Compare that with Colorado, where Hispanic voters went from 8 percent of the electorate in 1980 to 16 percent in 2014. And in North Carolina, assuming that voter preferences remain the same, the increase of minority voters in that state would turn a 2 percentage point loss by Democrats in 2012 to a razor-thin projected victory in 2016.

The trends are promising, but true swing state status for Arizona and Georgia is still four to eight years away. It is Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren policy ideas show signs of paying off Biden at campaign kickoff event: I don't have to be 'angry' to win Top Dem: Trump helps GOP erase enthusiasm gap; Ohio a big problem MORE’s good fortune that there are just enough persuadable white, college-educated, independent women in Arizona and Georgia to improve on Obama’s 2012 performance, and win the 40 percent support of whites needed for victory. to improve on Obama’s 2012 performance with whites and give her the victory. She will not be so lucky to face an opponent like Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE again. Clinton has the extra money and popular surrogates to take advantage of this momentary opening, but this does not mean Georgia and Arizona are really ready to swing. Not yet.

McLean is Professor of Political Science at Quinnipiac University. He is a contributing author in Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter, edited by Stacy Hunter Hecht and David Schultz (Lexington Books, 2015).


 

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