What makes a state swing?

Published: Nov. 2, 2020 at 6:00 AM MST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The outcome of the presidential election will likely hinge on a handful of swing states.

We asked Professor David Schultz from Hamline University in Minnesota, and author of the book Presidential Swing States, to break down the characteristics of what historically defines a swing state.

“The percentage of the population that identified as Republican and Democrat was pretty evenly balanced. There were a lot of people who claimed to be undecided voters. And, these were states where the average voter in the state...was to the right of the average Democratic presidential candidate and to the left of the average Republican presidential candidate. These were centrist states," explained Schultz.

Schultz is watching seven states this Election Day: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. All went for President Trump four years ago.

Schultz points out the number of swing states doesn’t change very often.

“I’m going to say one or two at a time," said Schultz. "So, it’s not completely unpredictable.”

However, the states marked with swing status do change.

“It’s demographic shifts relative to demographic shifts in other states," he said.

Schulz believes reliably red states Arizona, Georgia, and Texas are “on the cusp” of becoming swing states.

“I wouldn’t say flipping once makes you a swing state. Lots of things can happen. But, the fact, let’s say if Arizona were to go Democrat this time, this certainly means come 2024, that’s going to be the center of a lot of campaign activity for both Democrats and Republicans," said Schultz. “Same thing, if by chance, Georgia and Texas flipped this election, this is going to set off an incredible amount of political fireworks in four years.”

Schultz says, if Joe Biden wins Texas and its 38 electoral votes, it would be very difficult for President Trump to win re-election. A key state for President Trump to win is Ohio. No Republican since Abraham Lincoln has won the presidency without winning Ohio.

Multimedia Journalist Natalie Grim contributed to this report.

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