August 29, 2016

There are no "swing" states other than Ohio and Florida

One of the greatest sources of confusion about how the Electoral map may change in any given election is the misleading idea of "swing states". It makes it sound like they flip flop, and with the race so close otherwise, it all comes down to these few states to swing the election one way or the other.

In reality, the only states that show flip flopping are Ohio and Florida, and the only times that they've swung elections were due to shenanigans that gave one of them to the wrong party. So it's more accurate to say that, flip flopping or no flip flopping, a heavy-handed case of shenanigans can swing an otherwise close election.

The secondary usage of "swing state" is to refer to "close" states, where the margin of victory is under 5 or 10 points. But these are all reliably blue or red (mostly blue in our period). Here, "swing" is being used delusionally to suggest that if only we tried really, really hard, we could swing it from one color to another. But if all the blood has been squeezed out of the stone, that's it. It doesn't matter if the margin was under 5 points -- it ain't gonna budge any further.

Getting back to the primary usage of "up in the air," let's start with the states other than Ohio and Florida and explain why they're not swing states. We need to restrict our time period to one where most of the map was predictable, and so where only a handful of states could have changed from one year to the next. That means the culture wars period, from 1992 onward.

Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia began red and have steadily shifted blue over time. Although this does mean that some years are blue and others are red, it is not flip flopping, which suggests that any given year is up for grabs. They're only mixed colors because they started out one color and have steadily changed toward the other, a deterministic process.

Nevada and Colorado did narrowly go blue in '92 and '96, but only because of a high Perot vote, which split off more Republicans than Democrats. Their underlying nature, in the absence of a strong third party, was still red. Many other states went blue only due to Perot, despite being red states, such as Montana and Kentucky, which does not make them "swing" states.

The cause of this temporal shift toward blue is the migration of liberal transplants into the Las Vegas, Denver, and Northern Virginia (DC) metro areas. Unless and until this trend reverses itself back to the level of the mid-2000s, these states will remain blue.

Iowa has only gone red 1 out of 6 times, not flip flopped. New Hampshire went red once, too, but even that may have been due to Nader splitting off Democrats in 2000. It was still an underlying blue state. New Mexico went red once in '04, perhaps because Bush promised to keep their housing bubble inflating.

Indiana and North Carolina went blue in '08 as a one-time referendum against the neo-cons. North Carolina is not quite as red as it used to be, subject to the same liberal carpet-bagger process as Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada -- bringing them into Research Triangle.

A handful of Southern states went blue in '92 and '96 because of Clinton and Gore hailing from Arkansas and Tennessee, and being a supposed throwback to the Southern populism of an older Democrat party. Louisiana and Missouri joined these two. There was nothing "up for grabs" about them, though, and they have been solid red since 2000.

West Virginia started out blue in '92 and '96, but has steadily shifted red since, so nothing up-in-the-air about that one either. They weren't glomming onto Clinton and Gore as local heroes, since West Virginia is not Southern, and it had already voted blue when the entire rest of the country voted red earlier on -- for Dukakis in '88 and Carter in '80 (also in '76).

Aside from one-off flukes, or deterministic processes (long-term shifts in one direction or the other, local favorites, etc.), only Ohio and Florida show something like flip-flopping from one year to the next.

Ohio has officially gone blue 4 times out of 6, although in '04 the election was electronically stolen away from blue, making it blue 5 times. But in '92, it only went blue because of the size of the Perot vote, so that's still an underlying red state in 2 and blue in 4. And it wasn't a steady shift from one color to the other. In '04, its (rigged) outcome determined the entire election. So it's safe to call Ohio a swing state.

Florida has officially gone blue 3 times out of 6, although in '00 the recount would have shown it to have gone blue, so underlying blue for 4 out of 6. It's changes are not steady shifts in one direction -- it was red in '92 and '04, and was illegitimately red in '00. And its shenanigan-driven outcome in '00 determined the fate of the entire election. So it, too, is safe to call a swing state.

Notice, though, that the only times these swing states have swung an election was with the help of some kind of blocking of the popular vote. So it's electoral shenanigans that have swung elections, not a changing popular mood in up-for-grabs states.

Time periods tend to have a dominant party that represents the zeitgeist, and clearly it has been the Democrats during the culture wars period, given that more Americans are liberal than conservative. If only the popular vote mattered, they would have been in office the whole period, from Clinton to Gore to Obama.

In 2016, none of the deterministic processes has reversed (liberal transplants leaving former red states to make them red again), so not even the swing states can truly swing an election. If McCain and Romney had won Ohio and Florida, they still would've gotten whipped.

What will turn the White House over to a Republican again is a re-alignment of which kinds of people and which states vote for the newly evolving Republican party under Trump. Likely this will be through the Rust Belt. If Trump wins, it will probably be by winning at least one of the swing states and some but not all of the Rust Belt. Over time, more and more of the Rust Belt will turn red for the Trump-oriented GOP.


  1. Random Dude on the Internet8/29/16, 8:11 AM

    Trump did exceptionally well even with the rigged caucus system in Nevada. Polling shows him pretty close with some Trump leads in July. I still think this one is up for grabs.

    Colorado and Virginia are totally lost to the Democrats, I agree unfortunately. Colorado may have a larger than national average percentage of the vote go to Stein or Johnson. Not enough to put it in the Trump column but it makes it more competitive.

    Would be nice if Trump gets a surprise victory in Oregon. The people of Portland would be permanently triggered to know that their state went Trump's way.

    Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania are the key states to victory. I think these states (tougher for Michigan but still) can flip for Trump in these last couple of months.

  2. I agree that he has a good shot at Nevada. But this task is "converting a solid blue state" rather than winning the coin toss in a swing state.

    Colorado will have slightly more Johnson votes than the nation overall, but not by that much. Last time, 1% overall and 1.4% in CO. As for Greens, they'll actually get less there than overall -- last time, 0.36% overall and 0.29% in CO.

    The mountain hippie type has been gentrified out of transplant central for the Rockies. In 2000 Nader got more than twice his national figure in CO, and similarly in '04.

    Now that it's full of yuppie strivers, all they care about is the libertine lifestyle stuff (Sodomite marriage, legalize weed) and low taxes to fund more of that hedonism. Nader was focusing on the opposite -- ignore social/cultural distractions, more populist regulations in the economy and government.

    I'm not too worried about North Carolina -- it only went blue once, and already reversed back to (light) red. Polling looks good, and it's part of two regional strongholds of Republicans and the Trump-style populism specifically -- the Deep South and Appalachia.

  3. Good sign from Michigan: the new Emerson poll had to over-sample ancient women in order to give Crooked Hillary a 5-point lead.

    PDF p. 17:

    Age 75+ = 44.4% of the sample!!!

    Nearly half their sample is old biddies who aren't sure they care for Donald Trump's tone.

    This group was only 9% in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he's tied or down only 3 points w/in m.o.e.

    Also in Michigan, he actually leads the 18-34 year-olds by 45 to 33, whereas Clinton leads young voters in OH and PA. Those are the young people who got mobilized for Bernie in the primary, and they don't want anything to do with that crooked old bitch.

    In OH and PA, where they favor Clinton, young voters are 25-26% of the sample. In MI, where they are solidly for Trump, the pollsters reduced them to just 16% of the sample.

    Well, if they have to hide the Trump Youth, they have to over-sample somewhere else, so elderly shushers to the rescue.

    They also weighted the raw MI numbers by region, but did not weight by region for OH or PA.

    The fact that they had to torture the Michigan data to make it confess support for Hillary means it's probably tied or slightly pro-Trump by now.

  4. Reminds me of that PYT from a Trump rally in Michigan during the primaries:

    Albanian babes for the removal of kebab.

  5. Hello agnostic,

    I wasn't able to find a way to contact you directly on your site. I am interested in interviewing you on my show the Stark Truth. I would like to focus on cultural issues such as cocooning and your theory that cocooning influences the culture and aesthetic of an era,(how each era barrows from influences from the past) I am particularly interested in Art Deco, Neon, and 80's Retro Futurism.
    I recently recorded a show on similar topics:

    We can also talk about politics. I am interested in the area where the dissident right overlaps with the dissident left.
    I usually record audio but a written interview would work as well.

    My main email is

    Best Regards,

    Robert Stark

  6. Right now Trump is following behind in states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. Those would of been his clearest path to victory. The problem is Trump even prior to the convention is still pandering to conservatives rather than emphasizing economic populist. His Trade stance is a big deal but it's not enough to win over more working class white democrats in his states. It was a big mistake of his to come out in favor of massive tax cuts for the ultra wealthy. He should go back to his roots in the Reform Party when he was more of a Radical Centrist.

  7. A populist tax plan, and higher minimum wage, first requires a more cohesive nation -- otherwise tax-payers won't agree to giving their money for the "greater good" when they don't feel connected to bizarre strangers.

    Nationalism first, then the welfare state. That's how it happened the last time we had to shift out of the laissez-faire open-borders climate of the Gilded Age. McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt led the charge for nationalism, with some populism, and when that was solidified, FDR and others expanded the populism, with a little nationalism.

  8. Random Dude on the Internet8/29/16, 9:22 PM

    One state I forgot to list earlier was Florida. I believe Florida is Trump's for the taking as well.

    So if we have Romney's 206, add Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, we are up to 295 EVs. Add in Iowa and a surprise victory in New Hampshire and Oregon and we are up to 312 electoral votes. This matches pretty closely with your idea of 320 EVs. The only thing that would get it closer is if Maine were to have a surprise break for Trump, which is hard hit with a one-two punch of a crippling heroin addiction and a wiped out forestry industry. If that is the case, it moves to 316 EVs.

    Link to map:

  9. "I am interested in interviewing you on my show the Stark Truth."

    If it's going to cover topics that I haven't written about in awhile, it'd be better to do a written interview. It'll give me time to get back into that mindset.

    You can leave a list of questions here, or at Google Docs or something, and link to it here.

    I hate email and try never to use it with people I don't know in real life.

  10. Thanks,

    The questions were to long to post here so I posted them on a side blog. My main site is

    Here is the link:

  11. I'm seeing a lot of '80s questions -- awesome.

  12. When I've gotten all the responses written up, I'll make a back-dated post here, and leave the link in the comments at the question page.

    When it's formatted and posted, I'll link to your site here on the main page.

  13. Do you have an idea when the responses will be posted? No rush. Just want to get an idea.

    Thanks again.

  14. I'd say a week. I'm going to post them all in one thing, rather than what I've been doing bit by bit.

  15. Do you think you can get them ready before the election so they are timely? If not that's cool.


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