Why Missouri Will Not Be a 2016 Presidential Campaign Battleground

Posted by Claire Daviss on February 19, 2015

Interested in this topic? Sign up to receive our newsletter and other updates on elections and electoral reform.


 

For more than a century, Missouri was known as the “bellwether state” because of its tendency to swing between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The title was well-earned. FairVote’s analysis of state partisan leanings (based on a state’s partisan deviation from the national average) shows a consistently balanced division in Missouri. 

Closely Divided Missouri Partisanship, 1968-2004

Year

Partisanship

1968

50.2% Republican

1972

50.7% Republican

1976

50.8% Democratic

1980

51.5% Democratic

1984

50.9% Republican

1988

51.9% Democratic

1992

52.3% Democratic

1996

51.1% Republican

2000

51.9% Republican

2004

52.4% Republican

 

However, recent elections suggest that presidential candidates in 2016 are highly unlikely to target Missouri as a battleground, and, just as in 2012, the state will be nearly completely ignored.

In 2008, the Obama and McCain campaigns devoted significant attention to Missouri, spending more than $9.8 million on ads and holding 20 campaign events in the state. However, Missouri still became more Republican. McCain won the state by 0.13%, despite the fact that Obama won 7.3% more votes nationwide, reflecting a strong year for Democrats overall. Missouri’s underlying partisanship thus rose to 53.7% Republican in 2008.

This Republican lean explains why the Obama and Romney campaigns largely ignored Missouri in the 2012 general election. Total ad spending in the state was only $127,560, just 1.3% of what it was in 2008. Neither candidate, nor either of their running mates, held even one campaign event in the state. Romney won the state by 9.4% despite losing nationally by 4%. As a result, Missouri’s underlying partisanship increased to 56.5% Republican in 2012.

MissouriPartisanship96 12 2015 02 19 v2

In the 2016 presidential election, Missouri is highly unlikely to regain its battleground status. First, the trend in its partisanship has been steady, becoming more Republican in every election since 1996.

Second, Missouri is unlikely to experience a large enough shift back toward Democrats to make it a swing state. In the 2004, 2008, and 2012 elections, an average of just three states shifted partisanship by more than 5%. In 2012, the only three states shifting at least 4% were small, uncompetitive and ignored.

Third, Democrats have far more inviting targets to build on their base of 242 electoral votes in the "blue wall" 19 states they have won six straight times. They can seek the 28 additional electoral votes needed to win from these states, which have a total of 100 electoral votes.

States Democrats Likely to Target in 2016

State

Electoral Votes

Partisanship  2012

Nevada

6

51.5% Democratic

Iowa

6

51.1% Democratic

New Hampshire

4

51.0% Democratic

Colorado

9

50.8% Democratic

Virginia

13

50.1% Democratic

Ohio

18

50.4% Republican

Florida

29

51.4% Republican

North Carolina

15

52.9% Republican

 

In short, Missouri has joined the growing number of states that have no chance of being a swing state earning campaign attention. Missouri has become just another flyover state, rather than “the bellwether state" it once was.

 

Download FairVote's Fact Sheet on Missouri here. Rob Richie is the Executive Director of FairVote, @Rob_Richie. Claire Daviss is a FairVote Democracy Fellow, @ClaireDaviss_FV.

Show Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Join Us Today to Help Create a More Perfect Union