A List of the 2016 Presidential Swing States

A Handful of States Will Pick the Next President


The 12 "swing states" or "battleground states" are those that will receive the most attention from Presidential candidates once the election kicks into full gear. Most of these states are likely to be at least somewhat competitive, even if some may eventually not be. The 38 states not listed (plus D.C.) are mostly decided two years out, pending unexpected circumstances such as a Reaganesque landslide.

Republicans would be wise to implement a legitimate strategy that focuses on all 12 of these states, as Barack Obama did in 2008 when he won all of them and not on betting everything on a selection of states. Barack Obama won 11 of the 12 swing states below in 2012 and all 12 (plus Indiana) in 2008. George W. Bush won 8 of 12 in 2004 and was within 3 points in the other four.


#12 Minnesota

Republicans haven't carried the state since 1972, and Minnesota seems like one that is always just out of reach. It barely hits the list here - beating out Michigan - as President Obama failed to hit 53% in 2012 and Republicans have had some statewide success. Local-ish Governors Scott Walker (WI) and John Kasich (OH) could be appealing to Minnesotans.

#11 New Mexico 

President Obama won the state with just under 53% of the vote in 2012, and George W. Bush won it with 50% in 2004. The state's Republican Governor, Susana Martinez, has VP potential.

Close to 50% of New Mexico residents are Hispanic, which could provide a boost for US Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and, possibly, former Governor Jeb Bush should one of them win the nomination.

#10 Wisconsin 

Paul Ryan didn't help Mitt Romney carry the state in 2012, but they did manage a respectable 46% in the state.

Though Democrats have carried Wisconsin since 1988, Republicans aren't without some big wins. Conservative Governor Scott Walker has won 3 straight elections and may seek the White House himself, while 2010 Senate victor Ron Johnson will bring a healthy campaign and established footprint to the ballot box.

#9 Nevada

Though often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, Nevada is a fairly solid bellwether state as it has correctly selected the eventual electoral college winner in every race since Ronald Reagan first won in 1980. Harry Reid is also calling it quits, and his lack of reliable dollars could hurt the Democratic nominee.

#8 New Hampshire

With only 4 electoral votes available, New Hampshire doesn't get a lot of handshaking time once the primaries end. But the state can matter in an every-vote-counts scenario. When George W. Bush carried the state in 2000 by just 1 point, it ended up being the difference-maker.

#7 Iowa

Republicans have had a resurgence in the state as of late and currently hold every statewide office in Iowa, including both US Senate seats thanks to a big win by Joni Ernst in 2014. Can that star-power turn Iowa back to the GOP in 2016?

#6 Pennsylvania

This would be a prize that Republicans would desperately like to pull in for the first time since Reagan won in 1988.

It's always just thiiiis close for Republicans. It was a low single-digit race in 3 of the last 4 elections, and things may have turned out better for Romney without the Superstorm Surprise at the last minute.

#5 Colorado

After Cory Gardner pulled off a 3-point upset in the 2014 US Senate race, Colorado once again seems ready to swing back for Republicans. His Democratic opponent's bizarre War on Women obsession failed to hurt the Republican and marginalized his own campaign. And Hillary and co. seem ready to go down that path again. Before Obama won the state twice - by single digits - Republican nominees carried the state in 9 of the previous 10 elections. Could the quasi-libertarian nature of the state help Rand Paul, should he win the nomination?

#4 Virginia

The industry known as Big Government has officially turned Virginia from a solid red state - prior to 2008 they voted for the Republican in all but one contest dating back to 1952 - into an establishment-heavy purple state.

The state was won twice by George W. Bush with relative ease before suddenly turning purple across the board. The state currently holds both US Senate seats and the Governorship. Jeb Bush may actually be the state's kind of candidate.

#3 North Carolina

Next to Virginia, North Carolina became the other "shocking" red-to-purple state. It was an uncontested state in 2000 and 2004 as George W. Bush won it handily before Barack Obama pulled a 1-point victory stunner in 2008. Even after putting a more sizable effort into North Carolina in 2012, Mitt Romney only won by 2 points. The good news for Republicans is they hold both US Senate seats and the governorship heading into 2016.

#2 Ohio

Governor John Kasich is toying with a run for President himself, but a handful of Republicans might have the appeal to take Ohio. Having selected the eventual winning candidate in every contest since 1964, Ohio is a state both sides usually feel is a "must-win." George W. Bush's 51-49% win in Ohio was the deciding factor in his 2004 victory over John Kerry. Since 2000, the state has been decided by between 2-5 points, with the winner also winning the presidency.

#1 Florida

Republicans may have up to four Floridians (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio officially and Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson somewhat officially) trying to be the nominee in 2016. Republicans need Florida to combine with Texas as an antidote to California and New York. Mitt Romney was very, very close in 2012 so there's a general feeling that Rubio or Bush would be the best bet to dropping Florida much lower down the competitive list.

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Your Citation
Hawkins, Marcus. "A List of the 2016 Presidential Swing States." ThoughtCo, Oct. 14, 2015, thoughtco.com/list-of-presidential-swing-states-3303197. Hawkins, Marcus. (2015, October 14). A List of the 2016 Presidential Swing States. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/list-of-presidential-swing-states-3303197 Hawkins, Marcus. "A List of the 2016 Presidential Swing States." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/list-of-presidential-swing-states-3303197 (accessed November 21, 2017).