The spotlight is on half a dozen states that Biden and Trump need to tip the balance in their favor.
In the United States, politics is red, by the Republicans, and blue, by the Democrats. As in other parts of the world, the two great parties have traditional bastions that election after election choose their candidate for the White House, but there are others where the electorate is not so faithful. It is precisely these, which are known as ‘swing states’ or ‘hinge states’, which tip the balance from one side or the other.
Its importance lies mainly in the fact that the election of the president is not direct, but what the citizens vote for is their representatives in the Electoral College, which will ultimately be the one who elects the president. Each state has a number of representatives based on its population and since in all of them – except Nebraska and Maine – the winner gets all of them, losing is never an option.
The victory in one of these states, even by a handful of votes, can be decisive, as it happened in the 2000 elections, when Republican George W. Bush ended up taking the Presidency after achieving victory in Florida by only 537 votes , after passing through the Supreme Court, and with it the sufficient number of delegates in the Electoral College.
Another notorious case was the 1948 elections. At that time, Republican Thomas Dewey was considered the top seed but ended up losing to Democrat Harry S. Truman, who won by less than 1 percent in some of those ‘hinge’ states. elections. The defeat remained for the annals of history because despite the fact that the count had not yet been completed in all states, the ‘Chicago Tribune’ had its edition printed the next day giving Dewey as the winner. Two days later, a smiling Truman was photographed with the cover page reporting his ‘defeat’.
But what is the origin of the term ‘swing states’? The use of this term was coined in 1936 by the ‘New York Times’ during the Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign, but it was not until the tight elections of 2000 that it began to gain traction and the ‘hinge states’ became the main focus. of interest not only to the candidates, but also to the press.
Although they vary between elections, in general they are about a dozen states, since since 2000 in 38 of the country’s states the vote in the presidential elections has gone to the same party. This makes it more predictable whether a state will be ‘blue’ or ‘red’ and explains why candidates often focus their efforts, both advertising and campaign, on ‘swing states’.
According to the National Popular Vote organization, during the first eight weeks of the campaign – until October 22 – 98 percent of the acts of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates were concentrated in just twelve states. More specifically, 80 percent of the 122 events took place in seven states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona.
In general, experts and the media agree this year that the ‘swing states’ are Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. Of all these states, without a doubt the one that matters the most is Florida, since 29 of the Electoral College delegates are at stake.
As it stands, with Biden leading about 10 points nationally, if Trump still wants to hit the ball on Nov. 3, his options go largely through Florida.
According to FiveThirtyEight, if the Democratic candidate wins in Florida, his chances of winning a majority in the Electoral College increase by 99 percent, while in the case of Trump, they would only increase by 39 percent. However, as its director, Nate Silver, emphasizes, if the president wins in this state, in which the polls place him slightly behind, he could also do it in others in which he is in the same situation.
The second most coveted of these states is Pennsylvania, awarding 20 delegates. The home state of Biden – who later grew up in Delaware – was for Trump in 2016 – the first time a Republican candidate won since 1988 – but not by a strong majority and now the Democratic candidate seems to have an advantage to rise to victory, among other things thanks to the greater demographic weight of cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
As for Michigan, whoever wins in this state will get 16 votes in the Electoral College. Here, Trump achieved a meager victory that was nonetheless key – along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – in reaching the White House.
Experts believe that Biden has quite a few options to prevail in this state, especially after a few weeks ago the FBI prevented a plan to kidnap the governor, Democrat Gretchen Witmer, by members of a far-right group. In addition, the state has been hard hit economically by the coronavirus pandemic, with greater destruction of jobs and businesses than in other areas of the country.
North Carolina is another of the states in dispute for these elections. Here are 15 delegates at stake that in nine of the last ten presidential elections have gone to Republicans, with the exception of Barack Obama in 2008. On this occasion, Trump’s options are to mobilize the rural vote as he did in 2016 and count on the weight of cities, leaning towards Biden, to be less.
With regard to Arizona, another of the states that experts agree to consider as a ‘hinge’ this year, there are 10 delegates in the running. This border state with Mexico has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1952, except in 1996 when it supported Bill Clinton.
Now, however, Arizona seems to lean towards Biden, something that is explained by the fact of the pull that Democrats have among voters in suburban areas and the change in their electorate, with an increasing weight of Hispanic voters. In 2016, the latter represented one in five voters and strongly backed Hillary Clinton.
However, given the growth of retirement communities, their constituency is also slightly larger than the country’s average. Although a priori this could benefit Trump, the pandemic, which has hit here hard, has taken away part of the support of the segment over 65 years, even in the traditional conservative fiefdom of Maricopa County.
Finally, another of the ‘swing states’ that enters all pools is Wisconsin. This state of the so-called ‘rust belt’ is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and was also the scene last August of protests within the framework of the Black Lives Matter movement after a police officer shot an African American in Kenosha.
Although demographically, with its predominantly working-class and rural white population, it should be an easy state for Trump – in 2016 it was the state that tipped the scales in his favor – the truth is that polls place Biden with advantage. To realize that advantage, the Democrat will need a high turnout in Milwaukee, the main city of the state.
In total, these six states have 101 delegates. Assuming that 270 votes are needed in the Electoral College to reach the White House, this explains why they are key for both Biden and Trump and why whoever wants to succeed will need to win at least three of them.