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The Shrinking Battleground: It's Smaller Than You Think

by Laura Kirshner // Published July 23, 2007
Stateline.org columnist Lou Jacobson posted this article outlining his speculations for Election 2008 based on state partisanship trends. He generously considers 19 states to be swing states. However, as FairVote"s Shrinking Battleground report shows, there are far fewer states determining election outcomes than Jacobson reports.

Jacobson splits his battleground states into five categories: likely to vote democrat/republican, leaning towards democrat/republican, or tossup. While I admire Jacobson"s approach to speculating the 2008 partisan breakup, I'm convinced the reality is much worse than his data suggests.

For example, Maine is listed as "lean democrat" even though it has increased in Democratic partisanship since 2000, reaching 55.7% Democrat in 2004. I would classify this state as safe Democrat for 2008. Candidates will likely view Maine similarly and will ignore it as they campaign in the small handful of battleground states.

Maybe Jacobson is being careful not to speculate too early about which way states will go, but his current data gives the impression that nearly half of the states actually influence the elections. This analysis gives these states a false hope of having electoral power and potentially getting a scrap of campaign attention.

We should be mindful of America's Shrinking Battleground. Anything else sets us up for disappointment.