Swing states

Ken sent me a link to the interactive electoral map on John Edwards's website (we'll miss ya, John, and you would've had my vote, but thanks for leaving the sweet map up). It's the best of its kind that I've seen online.
Playing with such a map really simplifies one's view of the election. If you click on the Election Trends link, you'll see all the states colored either blue, red, or yellow. Blue states voted Democratic in the last 3 presidential elections, the red states Republican. Most evidence indicates that those states aren't likely to change their colors in this next election.
That leaves the yellow, or swing states. These states have voted both Republican and Democratic in the last 3 elections (though all went Republican in 2000). Fourteen such swing states exist, and the election likely comes down to how these states vote in the next election. I'll vote Democratic again, but Washington is assuredly going to vote Democratic. The suspense and drama will lie elsewhere.
We can shorten our list of critical swing states by how narrow a margin they tipped Republican in the last election. States like Montana that overwhelmingly supported Bush in 2000 (58% to 33%) are not truly swing states. If we narrow down this list to the swing states where the margin of the popular vote was 4% or less for the Republicans in 2000, six remain (I've listed the margin of victory for Bush in 2000 in parentheses):

  • Nevada (50% to 46%)

  • Missouri (50% to 47%)

  • Ohio (50% to 46%)

  • New Hampshire (48% to 47%)

  • Tennessee (51% to 47%)

  • Florida (hmm, let's not revisit that debacle)

We can further narrow the list by focusing on those states that are worth enough electoral votes to single-handedly change the election. That eliminates New Hampshire and Nevada.
We could further cull the list by focusing on the states that are most likely to vote Kerry. That would eliminate, in my mind, Tennessee, which I doubt will elect a New Englander.
That leaves three. Come election time, the marginal value of an extra Democratic vote in Florida, Ohio, or Missouri is going to be worth a lot more than in any other states given the "winner-takes-all-delegates" rule of our presidential election game. Though we're a long way from E-Day, I'm feeling hopeful about Missouri and Florida.