Fairvote.org is currently undergoing an upgrade, and some features may not be working as usual. We apologize for any inconvenience, and expect to be back at full capacity soon.

FairVote Maps the 2012 Presidential Campaign

by Andrea Levien // Published April 30, 2013

 

 

For some time now, we have known that presidential candidates focus their attention and energy on swing states. They do this because under the winner-take-all method of allocating Electoral College votes, the only states that matter are the ones that could go for either the Democrat or the Republican, while the ones that are squarely for one party or the other do not matter. For example, in 2012, the presidential candidates focused on only ten states. Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire were the only states in which Barack Obama and Mitt Romney held public campaign events after the Democratic National Convention, and those same ten states received 99.6% of all the Obama and Romney campaigns' television advertising money spent nationwide between April 11 and Election Day.

But where within the swing states did the candidates travel? Did they travel everywhere within these swing states, or just to the largest cities? How did geography and demography within swing states affect their campaign strategy?

Now, we have the answers.

FairVote has published a new map charting in detail when and where the presidential and vice presidential candidates campaigned after the 2012 Democratic National Convention in early September. Overall, the candidates attended 253 events in 168 different cities and towns, 59% of which were held in just three states (Ohio, Florida, and Virginia).

As we can see from our map, while the candidates did spent a lot of time in the largest swing state cities and their suburbs, they also traveled to more remote areas in search of votes as well. For example, in Ohio, the candidates traveled to 49 different cities and towns over the course of 73 different events. 37 of those events (50%), were in the three largest metropolitan statistical areas (urban cores and their surrounding suburbs), or MSAs, in Ohio. However, 48% of all Ohio residents live in these three metro areas, so the candidates' attention to voters there is not surprising. Conversely, Iowa's five largest MSAs contained only 37% of its population, and therefore the candidates held only 44% of their events there.

Below is a roundup of how the candidates divided their time in the most targeted swing states. As we will see, the candidates gave areas within swing states attention in proportion to their population size.

For a more detailed look, check out our Google Map, and for a look at our work, you can find our spreadsheet here.









Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 73 (29% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 49

Three Biggest MSAs: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati (contain 48% of the state's population and 52% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 38

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 23

Florida

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 40 (16% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 28

Four Biggest MSAs: Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville (contain 63% of the state's population and 70% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 28

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 19

Virginia

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 36 (14% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 22

Three Biggest MSAs: Washington, Virginia Beach, Richmond (contain 69% of the state's population and 69% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 25

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 13

Iowa

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 27 (11% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 18

Five Biggest MSAs: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Waterloo, Iowa City (contain 37% of the state's population and 44% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 11

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 7

Colorado

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 23 (9% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 15

Biggest MSA: Denver (contains 51 % of the state's population and 48% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 11

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 8

Wisconsin

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 18 (7% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 13

Three Biggest MSAs: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay (contain 42 % of the state's population and 56% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 10

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 8

Nevada


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 13 (5% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 4

Two Biggest MSAs: Las Vegas and Reno (contains 94% of the state's population and 100% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 13

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 4

New Hampshire


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of campaign events held in state: 13 (5% of all visits)

Number of cities and towns visited in state: 9

Biggest Combined Statistical Area (encompassing multiple MSAs): Boston (contains 78% of the state's population and 92% of events held)

Number of Events in these MSAs: 12

Number of individual cities and towns within these MSAs that were visited: 8

 

 

As we can see, there is some variation between states in the way that candidates travel within them, but the candidates do usually travel to areas based on their population sizes. The variety comes from that fact that some of these states are far more urban than others, and therefore, the concentration of campaign events are less dispersed in these states than in more rural states. In Nevada, for example, 94% of the population lives in the areas surrounding the state's two largest cities (Las Vegas and Reno). This population distribution incentivized the candidates to campaign only in these cities and their suburbs, since that was where most of the voters were. Conversely, in Iowa, the five largest MSAs only combined to make up 37% of the state population, incentivizing the candidates to travel throughout the state and visit different locations (18, to be exact), in search of votes.

Although it is impossible to know exactly how presidential campaigns would be run under a national popular vote, it is reasonable to assume that in an election in which every vote, in every state, was equally important, presidential and vice presidential candidates would divvy up their campaign attention nationwide in proportion to each area's share of the population. In that case, every state would host at least one event with a presidential or vice presidential candidate, and the midsized and larger states would receive multiple events, in both their urban and rural areas. A larger cross-section of the country would experience presidential elections and have a say in who becomes our commander in chief, and therefore, when National Popular Vote passes, our presidential elections will be better for it.