Voices & Choices

Tracking the Candidates Through the Final Campaign Push: Lots of Stops but Few States

Tracking the Candidates Through the Final Campaign Push: Lots of Stops but Few States

Last Monday, FairVote released our 2016 general election presidential campaign tracker. This tracker, which has been regularly used this fall by National Popular Vote, looks at where major party candidates for president and vice-president have been rallying their supporters at events that are open to the public, free and intended to influence local voters. Our data for the tracker is based on local news reports and the campaigns’ public schedules.

As anyone familiar with current Electoral College rules would expect, the vast majority of general election campaigning occurs in swing states; that is, states with roughly equal numbers of voters who prefer Democrats and Republicans in presidential races. However, it is still remarkable just how little attention solidly partisan states get. So far this year 91.5% of campaign activity has occurred in just 11 projected swing states. Moreover, more than half of this activity has taken place in just four states: the large swing states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, as shown below:



Campaign Events

Percent of Total Events




North Carolina













The Clinton campaign has only made three campaign stops outside of the eleven states that are projected to be highly competitive. One was to Nebraska’s second congressional district, which in fact can swing an electoral vote --Nebraska and Maine allocate some of their Electoral College votes according to winners of congressional districts. One was a union rally in Illinois, which likely was chosen due to being close to the border of nearby swing state Ohio. The last was a trip to Arizona which may have become a swing state since we made our decision on which states were likely to be competitive. 

The Trump campaign has been less focused, with about 13% of its campaign activity occurring outside of swing states. Overall, Trump and Pence have held a whopping 56% more campaign events than the Clinton campaign since the party conventions, and Trump has indicated many times that he sees his competitiveness in certain states and overall position in the race differently than much of the media. In some ways, the fact that Trump is still spending most of his time campaigning in swing states is proof of the hold of our archaic rules over even the most disruptive of politicians.


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The unequal attention candidates give to swing states is another troubling effect of current state laws governing allocation of electoral votes that deprive most Americans of a meaningful vote in the presidential race, lead to preferential treatment by the federal government, and allow candidates to win the presidency without majority support. Just last Friday, FairVote’s executive director Rob Richie was featured in a CBS News report on the problem through the lens of Oklahoma, which we believe hasn’t had a general election campaign event by a major party candidate for president in four decades.

For more information, check out our tracker and for how states are coming together to achieve a reform solution, visit National Popular Vote and check out FairVote’s innovations for moving America to a national popular vote system.

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