Purple states

What are the most “purple” states? Meaning-states consistently up for grabs in the election, and consistently changing columns from election to election.

Well, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida are the big three. They’re all in play in every election, and because of their size they receive a hell of a lot of attention. Michigan is similar, though historically a little more Democratic because of the heavy union presence. While 2008 was the first time that Virginia went blue in a long time, it’s actually been fairly close for a while. Minnesota and Wisconsin both lean blue as well. New Hampshire is the only real purple state in New England, and it leans blue. Iowa, Indiana, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada kind of lean red. North Carolina went blue in 2008, but that was a big shock to everybody.

**Iowa does NOT lean red. **

Pennsylvania is not in play. It’s consistently Democratic in Presidential elections. The last time it went Republican was 1988 for Bush. Erie, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia carry the day in every election, and they are overwhelmingly Democratic. The rest of the state goes Republican, but they can’t overcome the cities.

As for the other elections (for Governor and the like), those are toss-ups. But the Presidential elections are money for the Democrats.

Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio probably get more attention than is really warranted by their “purple” status alone, just because they’re all three relatively big. States like Texas, California, and New York are bigger, of course, but they’re all pretty well set as to which way they’ll vote in Presidential elections. Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, though, are all both close enough to purple that it’s plausible that either candidate might claim them, and big enough that claiming them makes for a worthwhile prize.

And as Airman Doors points out, local politics is very different from national. Most states are closer to balanced on the local level than on the national level, if only because the local parties tend to have a different meaning than the national ones. For instance, in Montana, there’s resistance to voting for a Democrat for President, owing largely to fear that a Democratic President would restrict gun rights (this resistance is being eroded by other factors lately, but it’s still a significant consideration). This isn’t really relevant to local offices, though, because Montana Democrats, like everyone else in Montana, are all pro-gun. So Democrats have less of a hill to climb at the local level than at the national level. Likewise, local Republicans will also have an easier time than national ones in Democratic-leaning states.

I guess not; that had been my impression but I guess it’s only gone red in '04, '84, and '80 recently. Maybe it’s better to say that it leans blue.

Pennsylvania went red in '80, '84, and '88, and blue since. Obama won it handily in 2008, but that was a wildly Democratic year. Kerry won PA by a little under 150,000 votes with almost six million votes cast; that’s hardly a blowout. While I’d agree that the Democratic candidate has an edge there, the state is still basically in play. Democratic candidates know this and so spend a fair amount of time campaigning there to solidify their advantage.

I live in Pennsylvania and there’s never any doubt that the Democrat will win. For a Republican to win here he’d have to be so superlative a candidate that he’d win everywhere else as well. The cities are lead-pipe locks for the Democrats, and the relatively sparse interior of the state is fairly well divided so the cities determine the winner.

If Pennsylvania goes to a non-winning Republican in the next 20 years I’ll eat my hat.

Ohio and Nevada are at the top of my list of states with the least ‘lean’ in Presidential elections relative to the national results. For instance, not only has Ohio gone to the winner of the last umpteen elections, it went for Bush in 2004 by pretty close to the same percentage he won by nationally.

NH, NM, and IA are all on the blue side of purple, having each gone GOP only once in the past 5 elections, and trending a bit more towards blue as time goes along.

States like MN, WI, OR, PA are only marginally purple in Presidential elections anymore: PA has gone blue 5 straight times, and the other three have done so 6 times in a row - even Dukakis won them, and he even lost California.

From a distance, it looks like CO is edging towards the blue side of purple, even though it’s only gone blue twice in the last 5 elections: not only did Obama win the state, but the Dems have done well in the 2006 and 2010 off-years.

FL and MO are definitely on the red side of purple, having gone GOP in 3 out of the past 5. My sense, again from a distance, is that MO is a good deal redder than it used to be: it used to be a bellweather, but Obama lost it in 2008 while winning in places like IN, VA, and NC that have been reliably red.

VA and NC are still firmly on the red side of purple, but gradually trending more purple. They’ve only gone for a Dem once recently, in 2008, but it won’t be the last time.

AZ is very much at the red end of purple (Clinton won it once, but it’s been red other than that in recent years), but I suspect it would have been in play in 2008 if the GOP nominee hadn’t been from Arizona. I don’t think it’ll be in play in 2012, though: they’re a bit too riled up about immigration.

I still see IN as a red state, even though it went for Obama in 2008. Even Congressional Dems that win in Indiana mostly have to be very red by Dem standards. I’ll stop believing Obama’s win in 2008 was a fluke when someone repeats it.

IN is still very much a red state. It had one of the thinnest margins of the last election and no one was seriously expecting it to happen. Any smaller of a wave election, and it wouldn’t have.

I’ve heard that NC is considered potentially in play again, due to changing demographics in the state. More minorities and more young, college educated voters who’ve moved into the Research Triangle. I won’t claim to know how plausible it is but there’s more buzz about NC being a fight than people pretending Indiana is in play for 2012.

Thank you Firefly for your analysis!