"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Friday, December 3, 2010

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

As armchair quarterbacks anaylze the aftermath of the 2010 election, potential presidential challengers are quietly gearing up for the 2012 cycle.  With sweeping Republican gains in statehouses across the country, the 2010 census apportionment is likely to give a slight edge to the GOP in congressional races, but more interesting are the demographic shifts which will benefit the Republican presidential nominee.

The map above shows the states which went to Obama and McCain in the 2008 presidential election, but with a twist.  Instead of varying the shading by the depth of partisan support, the darkness of each state instead corresponds to the predicted changes in the electoral college.  Meanwhile, several states are also shaded to indicate a potential weakness for the opposing party to pick up electoral votes in the 2012 cycle.

Dozens of states shifted perceptibly to the right in 2010, especially in the midwest.  Even President Obama's home state of Illinois, while still solid blue, is less so.  Mark Kirk won the Senate race there and the state legislature is slightly less lopsided in favor of Democrats than it was.  Also, like many liberal bastions, Illinois will be losing an electoral vote after the 2010 census reapportionment.

Republicans completely swept the 2010 election by winning races for governor, both houses of the state legislature, and a majority of the congressional delegation in seven states that went to Obama in 2008: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Meanwhile, Republicans also now control at least one house of the state legislatures in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

Democrats can take some consolation that during redistricting they will at least have some leverage in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia.  However, with the exception of West Virginia, none of these states are seriously in play for 2012--unless Hillary Clinton mounts a successful renegade primary challenge to her current boss.

Numerous factors, such as gerrymandered minority districts, weak turnout in an off-year, and the potential for improvement in the economy make it hard to draw strong conclusions from 2010 about the upcoming presidential race.  2012 will still be a very difficult year for Republicans, especially because there is no clear favorite with the widespread appeal that will be necessary to convince independents who voted for Obama to change their vote this time around.

However, Obama's political team should have reason to worry that no less than 117 electoral votes will be at stake in the seven states that slipped away from the Democrats in a complete rout this past cycle.  Adding other traditional battlegrounds like Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire into the mix presents a daunting race to the 270 electoral votes that will be needed to keep President Obama from joining the 15 million Americans currently on the unemployment rolls.

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