The Swing States of America--New Report Shows Shrinking Battleground

For Immediate Release

FairVote
Contact: 

Laura Kirshner, Presidential Election Reform Program (301) 270-4616   lkirshner@fairvote.org

The Swing States of America--New Report Shows Shrinking Battleground

Candidates Focus Their Times and Resources on a Handful of States and Follow Voting Patterns of 2004 Presidential Election

WASHINGTON - As the presidential campaigns enter their final four weeks, it is clear
that, just as in the 2004 presidential campaign, they are focusing
their attention solely on a declining number of battleground states.
The non-partisan organization FairVote is maintaining a daily tracker
of visits to states by the four major party nominees since September 5,
the first day after the Republican national convention. This data will
be used to follow up FairVote's groundbreaking 2006 report Presidential
Election Inequality about our nation's shrinking battleground in
presidential elections.

FairVote's executive director Rob Richie commented on FairVote's
findings: "What we are seeing is a division of the country into the
have's and have-not's when it comes to presidential elections. This
division has a stark impact on which eligible American voters
participate and on which issues the major parties highlight in the
final weeks of our one national election."

The top ten states receiving the most campaign attention are strikingly
similar to the top ten states in 2004, while a total of 29 states have
not received even a token visit by a candidate. Following is a list of
the states receiving the most visits by the major party nominees for
president and vice-president.

Most visited
states in 2008   % of visits
1. Michigan--12.4%
2. Ohio--10.3%
3. Pennsylvania--9.3%
4. Colorado--8.3%
5. Virginia--8.3%
6. Missouri--7.2%
7. Florida--6.2%
8. Wisconsin--6.2%
9. New York--5.2%
10. New Mexico--4.1%

Most visited
states in 2004   % of visits
1. Florida--21%
2. Ohio--16%
3. Iowa--13%
4. Wisconsin--11%
5. Pennsylvania--8%
6. Michigan--7%
7. Minnesota--5%
8. Colorado--3%
9. Nevada--2%
10. New Mexico--2%

The seven states appearing on both lists are Michigan, Florida, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Colorado--all among the
nation's dozen closest battlegrounds in 2004 and likely to be so again
in 2008. The three states from the 2004 list that are not on this
year's list are Iowa, Minnesota and Nevada--all considered
battlegrounds. Michigan tops the 2008 list, but recently was abandoned
as a target by John McCain's campaign and is unlikely to receive
attention in the campaign's final weeks. New York's inclusion in the
top 10 this year is solely a byproduct of major international meeting
that had nothing to do with efforts by the candidates to tilt the
balance in the state. Aside from the New York, the only two new states
are Virginia and Missouri.

Perhaps the bigger story is that so many states are not even close to
making top-ten lists when it comes to campaign attention. The vast
majority of states are "safe" states. The battle for votes in these
states never takes place, since candidates take their electoral votes
for granted. As a result, these states receive no campaign attention
and no visits from candidates. Voters in these states are effectively
disenfranchised by their lack of power, and this inequality has serious
consequences. The candidates design their campaigns to appeal to voters
in battleground states, and they address only those issues that concern
those voters. Voters in other states may have drastically different
needs and concerns, but a winning campaign strategy prevents candidates
from taking up these issues.

For several election cycles, the states considered to be battleground
states in a 50-50 elections have been largely the same. Election after
election, most voters are still left out of the campaign spotlight
while a handful of swing-state voters get all the candidates'
attention. The impact of this disparity can be measured by voter
participation. In 2004, eligible voters under 30 living in one of the
10 closest battleground states were more than a third more likely to
participate than were voters in the rest of the nation.

Swing states also benefit from the massive amounts of money they
receive from campaigns. Since the beginning of last year, Barack Obama
has spent over $24 million in Pennsylvania, over $14 million in Ohio,
and over $16 million in Florida. Similarly, John McCain has spent over
$28 million in those three states. The vast majority of states have
received less than $1 million in campaign advertisements, with six
states receiving nil from Obama and 16 states receiving nothing from
McCain. John McCain has spent a measly $180 on campaign advertisements
in his home state of Arizona!

FairVote has posted its full candidate trackers at http://www.fairvote.org/president,
where visitors also can download a copy of Presidential Elections
Inequality. We will continue to collect data on campaign visits up
until Election Day to see how the focus of each campaign changes. We
expect the number of states receiving campaign visits to shrink even
further as the campaigns progress. Just as the candidates are cutting
back on their visits to Michigan, we expect them to do the same to free
up resources for a steadily shrinking pool of swing states. The only
states that will receive the final campaign visits will be the ones
split most closely down the middle.

We will issue weekly updates of our candidate tracker, supplemented by
data on campaign financing.  We also will plan to release an updated
version of our Presidential Elections Inequality report soon after the
election that will allow us to anticipate what states are likely to be
battleground states in 2012 Our report will include a detailed analysis
of campaign attention based on visits, spending, and advertisements in
each state by each of the two major party campaigns and their
independent backers.

For a complete listing of the four major party candidate visits to all 50 states, visit http://fairvote.org/president/?page=2450.

View an HTML version of this press release at http://www.fairvote.org/press

 

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FairVote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that studies the impact of electoral rules and systems on turnout, representation and electoral competition.

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