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President of the Battleground States

by David Schnicke // Published October 14, 2008

Election day is fast approaching. Presidential candidates should be competing for the support of voters in every state, since every vote counts equally. However, this is definitely not the case. A look at the campaigns of Sen. Barrack Obama and Sen. John McCain reveals that some votes are worth more to the candidates than are others. The closer we get to Election Day, the more we see the campaigns focus all their effort, attention and resources on a handful of battleground states.

The gap between the number of campaign events in battleground states and 'solid' or spectator states is striking. The New York Times Candidate Schedule shows that since August the candidates held a total of 16 events in Florida, but not a single event in Texas. Within this time frame there were 21 events in Ohio, but not one in Kentucky, a neighboring state that is too 'solid McCain' to receive similar attention.

Share of Campaign Visits since the National Conventions [Source: Washington Post]

State

# of Visits

% of Total

Ohio

12

10%

Michigan

12

10%

Pennsylvania

12

10%

Virginia

10

8.4%

Florida

9

7.5%

Wisconsin

8

6.7%

Colorado

8

6.7%

Missouri

8

6.75%

New York

5

4.2%

New Hampshire

4

3.4%

Ten Most Visited

88

73.4%

The 10 most visited states account for nearly ¾ of all campaign visits, leaving only ¼ of all campaign visits for the remaining 40 states. Moreover, both campaigns only advertise in states that are worth the effort. While the Obama campaign has spent millions of dollars on ads in Florida, the campaign has done no such spending in California. According to TNS Media Intelligence the top five presidential election markets (by number of TV spots) are all in three battleground states: Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

This neglect of roughly 2/3 of the states is not a matter of indifference, but of logic. Under the current presidential election system it is simply unwise for candidates to campaign in states that lean towards one party or the other. Senator Obama ambitiously tried to conduct a more inclusive campaign before reverting to the swing-state strategy. When he started his campaign he announced a 50-state-strategy that quickly became 20-state-strategy and now concentrates its effort on an even smaller amount of states. The campaign increasingly asks volunteers from spectator states to travel to swing states where the volunteers' work can actually have an impact on the outcome of the election.

This is because the current system discourages campaigns from distributing their efforts more evenly among states. The presidential election is about winning the majority of the Electoral College rather than winning the most votes. The predominant role of battleground states has been a major issue in presidential elections for a long time. It is hard to understand why the US still sticks to a system that contradicts the very idea of equality in the electoral system. It is time to let the majority of the American people elect their President and to make every vote equal.