Voices & Choices

Republican Candidates Reflect the Power of the Swing State

Republican Candidates Reflect the Power of the Swing State
The Washington Post recently reported that "everyone is running for president in 2016!" More specifically, the Republican party has a flood of prospects who will have to battle it out for the party's nomination. Many of these prospective candidates have come from swing states, reflecting the highly unbalanced influence that swing states have in presidential elections.

Prospective candidates from swing states have a better incentive to run:
Sen. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, Florida: Florida had the smallest margin between Obama and Romney in 2012 with a difference of only 0.88%. Of course, the state is more famous for the even smaller margin in the 2000 election. Bush won the state by 0.01%, approximately 537 votes.

John Kasich, Ohio: Ohio had the third smallest margin between Obama and Romney in 2012 with Obama winning by only 2.97%, and consistently has been one of the largest swing states with 21 electoral votes.

Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin: In 2012, Wisconsin voted for Obama over Romney by a margin of 6.94%, bringing it into the top 10 closest states. There are other signs it could go red with the right candidate. The state legislature is Republican controlled, and in 2000, Gore won the state by only 0.22%, just under 6000 votes.

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina: While certainly not a "swing state," South Carolina had the 18th smallest margin in 2012, with Romney winning 10.47% over Obama. And with its northern neighbor entering the world of swing states, Republicans may want to secure their territory.

Republican leaders in Democrat-dominated states have more incentive to run, given their appeal to swing states:
Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey: New Jersey is decidedly not a swing state with Obama winning the state by 17.74% in 2012. That said, the fact that Gov. Christie managed to get elected governor in a blue state may suggest that he could win some of the swing states that have gone blue in recent elections, like Florida, Ohio, or Virginia.

Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts: Like New Jersey, Massachusetts is not a swing state, with Obama winning over Romney by 23.15% in 2012. But like Christie, Romney's role as former governor of a blue state may make him attractive to voters in swing states that have gone blue.

Of course, candidates win their party's nomination by winning primaries, not swing states necessarily. Indeed, the primary process may push many of these candidates to the right as they aim for their party's center, rather than for the nation's center. Nonetheless, candidates must realize that even if they win the nomination, they cannot win the eventual election unless they have the potential to appeal to swing states. It is therefore not surprising that many of the emerging Republican candidates have ties to swing states, or strong backgrounds demonstrating why they could.

The outsized influence of swing states reflects a larger trend in presidential elections. The current Electoral College system encourages candidates to concentrate on only a small handful of battleground states, while the large majority of states are ignored. FairVote supports a National Popular Vote for president, ensure that every vote in every presidential election matters equally.

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