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Swing States: The Deciding Factors in Elections

With the upcoming election, it is very fitting to be studying the mechanics and workings of elections and the presidency in government class this trimester. I recently found an article that discusses Obama’s support of same-sex marriage and the effects that his support on the issue has on swing states. Swing states are vital in Presidential elections because in many cases, they ultimately determine the outcome of the race. This recent news and the start of Obama campaigning brings me back to our study in the elections unit, specifically on electoral strategy.

The process to get elected President is a complex and complicated procedure that requires the strategy and assistance of many. President Obama must decide where to focus his campaigning, what issues to focus on, and what audience to target. Ultimately, it comes down to campaigning in swing states that will determine the outcome of the election. Swing states are states that are not solid Republican states nor solid Democrat states. They are states that have not consistently voted one party over the years, but rather, have switched parties throughout the year. Candidates, therefore, have a better chance in persuading swing states to vote for them.


In order to fully understand the electoral strategy and the importance of swing states, we must first look further into the Electoral College. The Electoral College is the system used in the United States to select the President and Vice president. In this system, electors are chosen to represent each state and political party and vote on the presidency. The presidential candidate must win the majority of electoral votes in a state in order to win that entire state. This is not a popular vote where every vote counts. In the Electoral College, it is a “winner takes all” method, where even though the vote may be just about equal among the candidates, the majority wins the entire state, disregarding all the other votes. This explains the significance of swing states. In such states, the support for a particular political party is about evenly split, allowing each candidate the opportunity to win over enough votes to pull through and win the state. Candidates campaign aggressively in these states because every vote counts, and a couple of votes could win them the entire state.

Many factors are taken into consideration when determining how to best capture the votes of swing states. In the article, the author discusses the effect Obama’s decision to openly support gay marriage will have on swing states, and if it will help or hurt his chance of winning them over. The author identifies 11 swing states. He proposes that Obama has a good chance of losing North Carolina to the Republican’s due to the recent pass of banning gay marriage in North Carolina, and Obama’s support of gay-marriage. About 60% of people in North Carolina oppose gay marriage. Florida and Ohio also pose as potential threats to Obama on the issue of same-sex marriage. Obama’s support over this issue will draw support from some, and opposition from others. I believe that his decision will have a large influence on swing states. As these present threats to his success in re-election, he has begun working to win over supporters.

Obama has already begun campaigning for re-election. Through his visits, one can see how the electoral strategy and swing votes influence his campaigning techniques. He has been making special visits to college campuses in swing states. For example, Obama has visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado, and University of Iowa, all three of which are swing states. I found that very interesting and smart of him, because a large percentage of support in the 2008 election came from young voters. By visiting those schools he is targeting those young perspective voters. Some states are predictable and unchangeable, yet others could decide the outcome of the election.


Obama speaking to college students at UNC

Many people feel that the extended attention on swing states is unfair to all the other states that would like to be equally informed and have the same exposure to candidates. What do you think about candidate’s special attention on swing states?

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