Safe State vs. Swing State

The Voting Playground:

Play it safe? Or swing? This is a concern that arises for presidential candidates every four years as we approach presidential elections. First, there are two terms to be recognized: “safe state” and “swing state”. In a “safe state” the presidential candidate of a particular party has the vast majority of support of that state's voters, regularly, so that he/she can safely assume the favorable outcome of the state's electoral college votes. Some well-known safe states are California for democrats, and Texas for republicans. On the contrary, there are states that are not like safe states and no single candidate or party has overwhelming support of the votes.

These are called “swing states” or “battleground states”. Some examples of swing states of this election are Florida, Iowa, Colorado, and others.

In the voting world, the president is decided through representative votes by the states. This is called the electoral college. A presidential candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the election. For 48 states, it is a winner-takes-all election which means that whichever candidate receives a majority of the popular vote, or a plurality of the popular vote (less than 50 percent but more than any other candidate), takes all of the state's electoral votes.

Maine and Nebraska are the only states that use a proportional vote system. In these states, there could be a split of electoral votes among candidates.(Dugan) The electoral college plays a huge role on the topic of safe states and swing states by effecting the behaviors of presidential candidates. For instance, safe states that are known to vote a certain way will not receive near as much attention or campaigning as swing states during the times close to elections.

This is why candidates fight over swing states that may only have as little as 4 electoral votes, instead of fighting for states with a lot more.(Dugan) An example of this would be Romney and Obama spending large amounts of money campaigning in a swing state such as Iowa with 7 electoral votes and very little in a safe state like California with 55 electoral votes.(Politico) Candidates do not put a lot of effort into safe states because it is unlikely that he/she can change the minds of the people there.

Also, one will not spend time and money campaigning in safe states because he/she may already have the support of the people in those states. As you can see, the electoral college is key to understanding how safe states and swing states work. There is a kind of two party dictatorship in today's American politics and the vast majority of voters fall into these two categories or parties: Republican or Democratic. Every election period there are two candidates running for these parties. In order for the candidate to get the vote of a particular state he/she must run a campaign.

The aggressiveness and frequency of the campaigns might vary due to the status of a party's influence over certain states. Sometimes the candidates have to modify there stance or ideals on certain issues to fit to that particular state. An example would be that some candidates may want to position themselves to appeal to a certain ethnic group of that area. Obama has tried to appeal to the Hispanic vote in Colorado due to the growing number of Hispanic immigrants. (Larcinese) This may be a smart move because he is usually popular among minority groups. In return, Romney has tried to address people in rural areas.

Recent polls show that he is 14 percent more popular with people in rural areas than Obama is.(Gruber) Also, issues that are a big concern in an area may be emphasized. Things like restoring the health of a declining ecosystem may be brought up in an area that is suffering from deforestation or pollution to secure the votes of people concerned about that subject. Other factors play into campaigning in swing states as well. Many times instead of stretching the truth, a candidate will just neglect to bring up the matter, whatever it may be. The sensitive issues of a certain state might be avoided in order to sound better on a vague level.

Slogans are made short and vague for this reason to get anyone to jump on the band wagon. Making the issues fit the political views of the people in a certain area or background is imperative to getting favorable votes. Candidates do whatever it takes to look good or appeal to people. This sometimes means mud-slinging or making the opposing candidate look bad. This has been going on since the beginning of presidential runoffs.

A great example of this would be “Romney's war on women” as said by Obama because of Mitt Romney's stance on issues for women. This gives the allusion that Romney doesn't care about women's health issues so that Obama would be favorable to women.(Politico) In return, Mitt Romney has attacked Obama's healthcare plan saying that Obama wont cover people with preexisting conditions. This is an ongoing thing that will never stop. There will always be differences in views that candidates will trash each other with.

There are a vast array of ways to advertise to capture the hearts and minds of would-be voters. The key to it all is appealing to the people that have the most stake in the situation and convincing them to vote a certain way to decide the victor of the presidential race. As you can see, the role of swing states and safe state are crucial to how things are done and the way that American politics play out.

Works Cited

  • Larcinese, Valentino. “Allocating the U.S. Federal Budget to the States.” The Journal of Politics. Wiley Library., 27 Apr 2006. Web. Vol. 68 May 2006 Gruber, Jonathan. “Rural Favor and Polls” Hastings Center Report. Wiley Library., 8 Feb 2012., Sep,Oct 2006
  • Politico.org., “News, Analysis, Candidates, and Polls.” Real Clear Polls. Swing state view., Sep 26 2012 archive.fairvote.org/e_college.htm., “Maine and Nebraska.” “Center for voting and Democracy.”, copyright 2002., Dec 10 2009
  • Dugan, Andrew. Gallup.com/poll/swingstate.htm., “Swing State Voters.” Washington D.C., “Race Track 2012” Sep 9 2012