State of the States: West Virginia

In 1996, Bill Clinton won West Virginia by 15 points.

In 2016 Hillary Clinton lost West Virginia by 42 points.

This wasn’t a fluke. It was the logical conclusion of a pattern:

1996: D+6

2000: R+7

2004: R+10

2008: R+20

2012: R+31

2016: R+44

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t normal. States and regions change sides all the time. There are zero states that haven’t been more red than average at least once and more blue than average at least once. Huge swings from one election to the next are plenty precedented. But there’s usually a correction at some point. When the South went from blue to red, there was a lot of back and forth as the transition was happening. Not here.

With Donald Trump, the ideal candidate for West Virginia got to jump on a speeding train moving in the perfect direction. Though this is the most extreme example, the same thing is happening throughout a swath of the country with Appalachian roots. The states are either part of Appalachia itself, or the diaspora. Many of their voters are of Scots-Irish decent. This is the part of the country that made up Andrew Jackson’s base in the 1820s and 1830s. Continue reading “State of the States: West Virginia”

State of the States: Oregon

Even if you’ve never watched an episode of Portlandia, your political image of Oregon is likely very blue. It seems like a very liberal/progressive place, one beyond allergic to Donald Trump. Not quite. Joe Biden will win there in November. But by 12 points, maybe, maybe 15 or 16, not the 30+ in California or 25+ in Washington.

Believe it or not, Oregon is relatively moderate, a state Republicans need to start competing in if they want to win a national popular vote anytime soon. As California and Washington have become off-limits for GOP presidential candidates and Connecticut and New Jersey only accessible in a landslide year, the right Republican would be viable there. Something to ponder as thoughts turn to 2024 sooner than we’re ready for. Continue reading “State of the States: Oregon”

State of the States: Alaska

Alaska is red, violets are blue. Some things just are. Until they’re not. In the case of the 49th State, the only one that can make Texas look mini, I was preparing to write a quick piece about how it’s definitely in Donald Trump’s column, with a quick aside about the old election that moved Alaska from purple to red.

When I looked for the poll numbers to plug in to the second section, I was thinking there was a good chance that like Rhode Island, we’d have none. To my surprise, not only were there a few surveys, but they indicate a competitive(ish) race. FiveThirtyEight is giving Joe Biden a 20% chance at being the first Democrat to win Alaska since 1964.

How can this be? Continue reading “State of the States: Alaska”

State of the States: Texas

Almost twenty years ago, political demographer Ruy Teixeira and journalist John Judis wrote a book called The Emerging Democratic Majority. The thesis is that by combining women, racial and ethnic minorities, and knowledge workers, Democrats could create an enduring governing majority. This is exactly what the Democratic coalition in blue places looks like these days. And it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Obama Coalition. Clearly there was something to this.

Some carried this to a further logical conclusion. That Texas would inherently turn blue. If people of color tend to vote Democratic, and Texas was increasingly becoming non-white, then ergo, the second most populous state in the union would join California as part of an Electoral College bulwark, dooming Republicans to decades of needing an invitation to enter the White House. You can see why hopeful Democrats would buy in to this scenario.

In the several elections since the book debuted, Republicans have easily won each of the presidential contests in Texas. The GOP is unbeaten in Senate and governor’s races too. This is despite the increasing percentage of Latino voters and immigrants from blue states. Why isn’t this happening? Or is it, but something that Democrats hoped would take 10 or 20 years will actually require 40 or 60? Continue reading “State of the States: Texas”

State of the States: Rhode Island

We’re used to thinking about religion impacting voting. The Republican capture of the evangelical vote over the past 40 years is the single biggest factor in the past several GOP victories. As Trump haters lament the success the thrice-married, porn star paying, not sure how to hold a bible president continues to have with this key voting block, based mostly on judicial nominations and maximum verbal support for the community, it’s easy to forget about Catholics. That “other” group represents almost a quarter of the country.

In Rhode Island, it’s almost half. The only other group of consequence are those who consider themselves non-observant. Among those who regularly pay attention to religion, Rhode Island is a Catholic state. And it’s not a new development. For the past hundred and fifty years or so, it, Massachusetts, and to a bit lesser extent, Connecticut have given Catholics a strong presence in New England.

Times have changed, and this doesn’t drive electoral results as directly as last century. But you can still see the pattern. Among states with a high percentage of white Catholics, Donald Trump tended to do better than recent Republican candidates. In Rhode Island, it narrowed the gap. He still lost by double digits. It was still the closest result to the national popular vote for any Republican since 1992. In places like Pennsylvania (8th most Catholic state) and Wisconsin (11th), the votes of older white Catholics may have delivered the presidency to Trump. Continue reading “State of the States: Rhode Island”

State of the States: Iowa

Donald Trump’s Iowa victory in 2016 was a big surprise. Not that he won. Several polls showed him with a lead, and George W. Bush won the state in 2004 and lost by a sliver in 2000, so it’s not like Iowa was part of the supposed Blue Wall. It was the margin. Nine points, 11 better than Trump’s national popular vote percentage. The best performance by a Republican since Richard Nixon in 1968.

Clearly, Iowa is Trumpy. Or is it? Current polls there are showing him barely ahead of Joe Biden. Should we believe the surveys? Overall, Biden’s polls are ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 results, but among competitive states, his Iowa improvement is about double the average. I think this is legit. And if anything, the numbers are underselling Biden’s odds. Here’s why:

Continue reading “State of the States: Iowa”

State of the States: Wyoming

When you think of the perfect state for Donald Trump, Wyoming probably isn’t your first thought, and not just because the state ranks with Delaware on the list of states many Americans forget about when trying to list all the states. But it was his best state in 2016, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be this time.

Why? What makes Wyoming the paragon of Trumpiness? Sure, it’s a very red state. The last time it chose a Democrat was 1964. A Democratic candidate has only done better in Wyoming than nationally twice. And last time was 1916. Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to compete. Still, this was the most red (+48) compared to the country Wyoming has ever been.

Let’s see why Wyoming was and likely remains the perfect storm for Trump’s success: Continue reading “State of the States: Wyoming”

State of the States: Florida

For any Democrats who were still under the illusion this was going to be easy, a new Florida poll from NBC/Marist ended that consideration yesterday. Among likely voters it was a dead heat, 48/48. Immediately, memories of disappointments in 2016 and 2000 returned, along with various statewide contests, most recently the 2018 GOP wins for senator and governor.

Should Democrats panic? Can Joe Biden still win? Does it mattered if he doesn’t? Let’s take a closer look: Continue reading “State of the States: Florida”

State of the States: Hawaii

You haven’t spent much time thinking about who will capture Hawaii’s four electoral votes. Partly because you never think about Hawaii unless you’re planning a vacation. Partly because if you accidentally thought about it in election terms, you quickly remembered Biden will win by a lot.

There’s never been a famous Hawaii caucus or primary. Tulsi Gabbard is the only Hawaiian politician to have run for president. General Election candidates don’t usually campaign there. Most senate campaigns are easily won by the Democrat. Yet, I was very excited about getting to talk about what Hawaii can tell us about the election. Keep reading to see why. Continue reading “State of the States: Hawaii”

State of the States: Michigan

Welcome to the the first of 51 (D.C. has electoral votes too) reviews of the states that are choosing the next president. At various times in American history, the popular vote and electoral vote line up almost precisely. This isn’t one of those occasions. The drama is all on the state by state tabulation side.

We’re starting in Michigan because it was a key surprise component in Trump’s 2016 upset victory, but I’m hoping you find the journey to places like Hawaii and Rhode Island interesting too. No state in the Union has managed to stay only red or only blue throughout it’s history. Today’s sure thing could be up for grabs as soon as the next cycle.

Continue reading “State of the States: Michigan”