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After Four Years, Which States Made the Cut? FairVote Data on President Obama's State Travels and Preview of 2012 Campaign Analysis

Released September 21, 2012

FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that studies elections and proposed election reforms, has tracked and analyzed the travels of President Barack Obama since he took office and of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney since he became his party's presumptive nominee in April.

As reported on FairVote’s website, the states in which President Obama attended the most events in the period of time between entering the White House and accepting his party’s nomination for reelection were dominated by his biggest donor states in 2008 and swing states that he hopes to win in 2012 (along with White House’s neighboring state of Maryland).

President Obama’s Most Visited States between January 20, 2009 and the Close of Democratic National Convention (September 7, 2012)

 

Total Events

Fundraisers

New York

71

35

California

56

32

Florida

46

18

Virginia

46

4

Ohio

44

4

Illinois

32

16

Maryland

31

2

Iowa

30

0

Pennsylvania

28

6

Texas

21

12

As we can see, even before the two month period prior to Election Day when campaigning is most intense, Obama very clearly favored swing states, unless the potential for big donations to his campaign was involved. The five most visited states either hosted the most major fundraising events for him during the 2012 election cycle or had the most swing electoral votes up for grabs. The three states to receive the most visits from President Obama were also the ones that have held the most major fundraising events for him during the 2012 election cycle. Another large state, Illinois, had a lot visits from the president, but had to hold sixteen large fundraisers for him in return, whereas the swing states of Ohio and Virginia did not. The state with the biggest discrepancy between visits and fundraisers, Iowa, has seen the president 30 times since he entered office, but has not hosted a single fundraiser for him that he attended.

In contrast, the president has yet to visit 6 states. One stark example is South Carolina. Despite the fact that he has attended 19 events in its neighboring North Carolina since he became president, and despite the fact that his party held its national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, just a few miles from the South Carolina border, he has yet to visit South Carolina since he won the state’s delegates in the 2008 presidential primaries. Twenty other states have been visited three times or less. None of these 26 states are projected to be swing states in the November election, and all 12 of the states with one or less visit from the president are expected to vote for Mitt Romney in November.

President Obama’s 12 least visited states (all 1 visit or less)

 

Total Events

Arkansas

0

Idaho

0

Nebraska

0

North Dakota

0

South Carolina

0

South Dakota

0

Utah

0

Kansas

1

Kentucky

1

Montana

1

Oklahoma

1

Wyoming

1

Gov. Romney’s visits in the four months leading up to the end of the Democratic National Convention showed a similar pattern to President Obama’s visits during his presidency. New York and California have seen the governor 17 times, but only in return for holding 14 major fundraisers. Ohio, on the other hand, has seen Romney more than New York has, even though Ohio has not held a single fundraiser that was large enough to merit an appearance by Romney. The other states on his list, apart from Republican stronghold Texas, are all potential swing states.

Romney’s Most Visited States between April 24, 2012 and the Close of the Democratic National Convention (September 7, 2012)

 

Total Events

Fundraisers

California

10

8

New Hampshire

9

1

Ohio

8

0

New York

7

6

Colorado

7

2

Michigan

7

2

Texas

6

3

Iowa

6

1

Virginia

5

0

Pennsylvania

4

1


Just as in our reports on the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections,  FairVote is tracking the candidates’ travels and spending habits after the conventions, the time when campaigning is the most heavy. At this point in the campaigns, candidates spend more of their time wooing potential voters rather than potential donors, and therefore, we should see a great shift away from the country’s richest states towards the country’s most closely contested states. So far, just as it did in the previous two elections, this pattern has held up.
 
For the peak season, we tally campaign events designed to influence a state’s voters, not the total events in the state (for example, an appearance on a national talk show filmed in New York does not count as a campaign event in the state). In the days since the end of the Democratic National Convention (September 7), the candidates campaign events have been in the following locations.
States with the Most Campaign Events from the Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates, September 7, 2012 to Sept 20, 2012

 

Obama           

Biden

Romney

Ryan

Total

Florida

6

0

4

1

11

Ohio

2

4

2

1

9

Iowa

1

3

1

1

6

Virginia

0

0

3

2

5

New Hampshire

1

0

1

1

3

Colorado

1

0

1

0

2

Nevada

1

0

0

1

2

Wisconsin

0

1

0

1

2

Pennsylvania

0

1

0

0

1


These visits, along with ad spending from the past four months, have mirrored the activities of the candidates in the 2004 and 2008 election, during which they focused almost all of their campaigning efforts on a handful of swing states. In 2004, for example, 92% of candidate visits were to only 11 states. In addition, CNN data showed that the George W. Bush and John Kerry’s campaigns spend 52% of the their ad money in only three states - Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania – while the three most populous states – New York, Texas, and California – only received seven ads combined.
The 2008 election proved no different from the 2004 one, with 99% of visits and 95.1% of ad money given to fourteen states. As can be foreseen from our 2012 data up to this point, the number of competitive states should decrease in 2012, since states such as Missouri and Indiana, which became possibilities for Obama in 2008, will no longer be electorally feasible for the Democratic candidate.
 
Stay tuned as FairVote continues our efforts of tracking the presidential candidates’ activity, and for our upcoming report on the 2012 election, Presidential Electoral Inequality

Andrea Levien is a FairVote Democracy Fellow. Contact Andrea or FairVote executive director Rob Richie at (301) 270-4616 or alevien [ at ] fairvote.org.