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Identifying the new 2020 Swing States and why they matter

Identifying the new 2020 Swing States and why they matter

  • As the 2020 presidential election heats up, political attention turns not only to the usual swing states, but also to other regions facing a potential party switch.
Democrat and Republican party logos

We all know how presidential elections go: every vote matters, but some matter more than others. Candidates try to appeal to all voters, but they spend extra time and dollars in swing states such as Florida, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. But as a global pandemic and worldwide racial justice protests rock our society, longstanding electoral trends are being shaken up, too.  President Donald Trump’s unsteady approval ratings have encouraged rival Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, and his campaign team to expand their sights not just to the usual swing state suspects, but also to other states long dismissed as out of reach.  After analyzing recent polling, here’s a rundown of the 2020 election’s newly emerging swing states.

Georgia

Changing demographics and the competitive 2018 midterms indicate a political shift

Though Republican presidential candidates have won Georgia during every election since 1992, Democrats have long dreamed of turning this state blue.  In 2020, they just might achieve this goal.  Even before this year’s tumultuous events, Georgia was already starting to lean left.  Its 2018 midterm elections were the most competitive in recent history, with Democratic candidates gaining 49% of the vote for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, according to CNN.

Looking more closely at state demographics, Georgia’s percentage of black voters has grown from 25% in 2000 to 33% in 2020, marking one of the largest nationwide increases in black voters per state, according to the Census Bureau.

Additionally, many of Georgia’s white voters are college-educated and thus fall into another demographic that frequently votes Democrat.  Georgia’s high black and white, college-educated electorate separates the state from nearly all of its southern neighbors, helping to pave a way for Joe Biden to flip the state blue.

Current polling lists Georgia as a toss-up in the general election, with Biden leading by 1 point in the most recent surveys.

Ohio

This state’s pendulum of political thought may pivot yet again

After a long history as a prominent swing state, Ohio veered right in 2016 with many Democrats worrying that the state’s mostly white and blue-collar population would place it out of reach for future candidates.  However, a June Quinnipiac University placed Biden ahead of Trump by 1 point, and a recent Fox News survey found Biden leading by 2 points, The Hill has reported. And it’s worth remembering that Ohio voted for Obama both in 2008 and 2012, so the idea of the state swinging left again isn’t too far-fetched.

That being said, other pundits have pointed out that Ohio has tended more Republican than other states with similar demographics, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. According to NBC News, if Biden does win Ohio, that probably means he’ll have already won those other three states and thus, mostly likely the presidency. But given Ohio’s recent political fluctuations, it’s still worth keeping an eye on the Buckeye state to watch which way it falls this time around.

Iowa

63% of residents believe the country is “on the wrong track”

Yes, you read that right. The farmland state is usually known for hosting the first caucus with its mostly white population. While Trump won Iowa by 9 points in 2016, a recent poll from the Des Moines Register found that his lead slipped to 1 percentage point over Joe Biden.  Furthermore, 63% of surveyed residents believe the country is “on the wrong track,” including 45% of surveyed Republicans who shared this view.

In total, 52% of Iowans disapprove of Trump with the majority of respondents reporting displeasure at how the president has handled both the COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest. At the same time, just 45% of surveyed Iowans approve of Biden’s candidacy, which leaves the state as a toss-up.

It’s worthwhile to note, however, that while losing Iowa would hardly prevent Biden’s path to the White House, Trump most likely needs both Iowa and Ohio to ensure his re-election.

Texas

A growing minority population could tilt this Republican stronghold blue

Long considered a conservative stronghold, Texas may be yet another state inching toward a party switch.  Recent elections, such as Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke’s narrow defeat in the 2018 senate race against Ted Cruz, have seen surprisingly close results.

Rapidly growing Latino and Asian populations could help solidify this political shift towards the Democratic Party, as seen by a June Fox News poll placing Biden up by 1 point. While achieving a blue Texas in 2020 might be more of a stretch, the state is currently listed as a toss-up and may turn more Democratic in future elections.

projected texas population by race/ethnicity
Texas’ Latino and Asian populations are expected to increase over the next few decades. Source: Texas Demographic Center

North Carolina

Recent polling finds a majority disapprove of Trump

Another southern state that might break away from the pack, North Carolina has voted Republican in all but two presidential races since 1972, mostly recently giving Donald Trump a 4 point victory in 2016.  But a recent NBC/Marist poll found Joe Biden with a whooping 7 point lead, 51% to 44% over Donald Trump. This latest finding reflects an increase from March when Biden held a 49% approval rating to Trump’s 45%.

Such a large polling disparity may raise some eyebrows in this traditionally conservative state, especially considering how skewed polling in 2016 prevented a clear prediction of a Trump’s victory.  However, it’s also worth noting that within the past few months, Trump’s statewide approval rating has dropped by 11 points to just 41%.

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North Carolina has received recent attention for its refusal to host an in-person Republican National Convention in Charlotte, a decision brought by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who maintains a comfortable 20 point lead over his challenger, Dan Forest.  The same NBC poll cited above also places Democratic senatorial challenger Cal Cunningham 9 points above incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis.

The pressure is mounting on North Carolina from both sides; while Trump most likely needs its votes to win re-election, Democrats have also turned their attention to the southern state.  For instance, former President Obama has endorsed 21 candidates running for office in the state. In addition to gaining the electoral college and open US Senate seat, Democratic activists also hope to flip one or both of the state’s currently Republican-held legislature chambers.

Which are the New Swing States?

Why is Georgia a swing state?

Its 2018 midterm elections were the most competitive in recent history, with Democratic candidates gaining 49% of the vote for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, according to CNN.

Why is Ohio a swing state?

Ohio veered right in 2016 with many Democrats worrying that the state’s mostly white and blue-collar population would place it out of reach for future candidates.  However, a June Quinnipiac University placed Biden ahead of Trump by 1 point, and a recent Fox News survey found Biden leading by 2 points, The Hill has reported.

Why is Iowa a swing state?

According to the Des Moines Register, 63% of surveyed residents believe the country is “on the wrong track,” including 45% of surveyed Republicans who shared this view.

Why is Texas a swing state?

Rapidly growing Latino and Asian populations could help solidify a political shift towards the Democratic Party, as seen by a June Fox News poll placing Biden up by 1 point.

Why is North Carolina a swing state?

A recent NBC/Marist poll found Joe Biden with a whopping 7 point lead, 51% to 44% over Donald Trump. This latest finding reflects an increase from March when Biden held a 49% approval rating to Trump’s 45%.

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