Will Iowa REALLY Be Crucial?

The subtitle of this article from Slate.com suggests that Iowa will be crucial in the upcoming presidential election. Will it, with its whopping six electoral votes, really be all that crucial? If the election comes down to a 6 vote margin, the answer would be yes. But if that’s the case, practically every state will be crucial. It bugs me to no end when I hear things like [insert election of choice here] all came down to [insert state of choice here]. Okay, maybe a given state was decided last, and we didn’t know what the outcome of an election would be until the polls closed there, but such a hypothetical state wasn’t any more important in the end than any other. Oh, and while I’m at it, the fact that no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio is a statistical anomaly. No Republican who has ever won a presidential race where it came down to the number of electoral college votes Ohio had has ever won it without winning a whole lot of other states in the process, either.

I’m no statician. Correct me if I’m wrong. :slight_smile:

Um, this article.

Currently Nate Silver has Iowa as the 6th most likely “tipping point” state, with a likelihood of 7.7%. That is the likelihood, according to his model, of Iowa providing the winning electoral votes for whomever the winner is.

More likely (in order of likelihood) are: VA, OH, CO, PA, and NV.

That rings pretty true to me.

My point is that it’s silly to single out any state just because it’s a closely contested one. I don’t doubt his state-by-state predictions. It’s my impression without looking things up that Silver has been accurate in the past. But in a close election, any state that, if moved from one candidate’s column to the other’s decides the election, well, decides the election. None is more important than any other.

Let me just preemptively state that I certainly see why a candidate’s campaign would be interested in such data. Obviously you want to use your resources in states where they are needed most. But close states don’t necessarily decide anything in any real sense. All are involved.

And yes, almost any state that votes for the winner in a close election could arguably be called a “tipping point state”, in that if it had gone the other way, the election would be different. The one that Silver is talking about is based on the order of the vote margin in the states. That is to say, if the winner’s vote share were to decrease in every state by the same margin, what state would be the one whose flipping would make the difference? By this standard, California or New York would never be the tipping point state, nor would Texas or Oklahoma: There are situations where the Republican might win California or New York, but those situations are all such extreme blowouts that he would have won even without them. Likewise, for a Democrat winning Texas.

270towin shows ten states as swing states: Nevada (6 electoral votes), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), New Hampshire (4), Virginia (13), North Carolina (15), and Florida (29). If I were working for either campaign, I would of course prioritize them in order of their e-votes, Florida first, then PA, etc.; which puts Iowa at a very low priority, only NH ranking lower.

A simple example which should answer OP would be an election with eleven voters, five supporting Adam, five supporting Bob and one undecided. Clearly the undecided voter will decide the election.

Pennsylvania has voted Democratic every election since the 1988 landslide; I’m afraid Obama’s doomed if he can’t hold it(*). Similarly if Obama wins North Carolina, he’ll probably get to 270 easily.

I predict the winner will be whoever wins a majority of these four states: Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada. (Four is an even number: 2-2 tie goes to the winner of Virginia.)

(ETA: * - that’s NOT to argue he shouldn’t devote great effort there.)

Nope, not satisfied. :slight_smile:

The undecided voter will have to chose one candidate of course, giving that candiate a 6-5 win. Let’s say it’s Bob. If instead a Bob voter had voted for Adam, he would win. All votes count equally, therefore you can choose any one and call it the deciding vote. The undecided voter who decides last is like the state who decides last in the OP…

Let me say that if you were to use definition #2 from Merriam-Webster, then the last state to vote could in fact be said to decide the election.

With that, I have decided that if a moderator were to decide to close this thread, I would have no objections, as it seems the few posts here not by me are more concerned with specific states and such, a discussion better undertaken elsewhere.