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Presidential Elections and State Politics

What are the blue states, red states, and swing states we hear so much about, and how do they decide our presidents?

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Around election time, states are typically called “blue” or “red.” Many voters may ask how these distinctions are made, especially when it comes to polls about the election. Here is some insight into these associations.

On electoral maps, states are organized by colors to distinguish their voting patterns. Typically, these voting patterns exist from trends that have been around for years, perhaps even decades.

Blue stands for the Democratic Party, so “blue states” support the Democrats; red is the color of the Republican Party, so “red states” usually vote Republican. “Purple” states have a mix of Republican and Democrat communities. States that aren’t so predictable are called “swing states” since they can swing to either party during an election – this makes them very important for deciding the vote. Candidates have to work hard to convince the swing states to vote for them.

States like California, New York, and Massachusetts are considered deep blue states for their overwhelming support for Democratic candidates. The Democratic Party is typically the dominant party in those states, especially in local government elections.

States like Mississippi, Wyoming, and North Dakota are seen as deep red states in the country. Texas was once considered to be a deep red state, but recent elections have shown that support for the Democratic Party in the state is increasing rapidly. Many political strategists are now predicting that Texas will eventually become a blue state if the current trend continues.

Swing states are considered the most impactful in presidential elections. They’re usually labeled as “toss-ups” on election maps. States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan are swing states considered part of the Rust Belt region. Other swing states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina also tend to change between choosing Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency.

Swing state political leanings are sometimes miscalculated, and there is no bigger example of that than the 2016 presidential election. Throughout the country, polls all predicted an overwhelming victory for Hillary Clinton due to polling methods in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. According to pollsters, they did not consider the overwhelming support that Trump ended up receiving in these swing states.

Some say the marking of states as blue or red is an outdated practice, especially considering how states have flipped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats in the last decades. Every election, new states are up for grabs by both candidates, showing how quickly voter preferences can change. Some have criticized the focus presidential candidates place on swing states, which tends to exclude other states from a candidate’s attention.

By the time of the 2024 presidential election, it’s almost a certainty that states that look heavily red or blue today will be toss-ups and up for grabs by the next presidential candidates.

Jose Backer, General Assignment Reporter, is a graduate of St. Michael's College and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Political Science. Born and raised in Southern California, he currently resides in the Pasadena area.

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