In American politics, battleground states, also known as swing states, are states in which no candidate has overwhelming support. This means that a battleground state could reasonably be won either the Democratic or Republic presidential candidate by a swing in votes. On the other hand, states that regularly lean to a single party and are generally assumed to vote for that party’s candidate are known as safe states. Battleground states play a major role in competitive elections and are highly targeted by candidates.
In presidential elections, each state is free to decide the method by which its electors will be chosen for the Electoral College. To increase their voting power in the College, almost every state has adopted a winner-take-all system. This means that the candidate who wins the most popular votes in a state wins all of that state’s electoral votes. The only states who have not adopted the winner-take-all system are Maine and Nebraska. Due to the winner-take-all style of the Electoral College, candidates will often only campaign in competitive states.
Some states are consistently battleground states. According to the election analytics website FiveThirtyEight Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin are perennial swing states. These states have had historically close elections over the last few presidential elections.
One example of a swing state having a major influence in a presidential election can be seen in 2000. The 2000 presidential election was a contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Core. On November 7, 2000, election night, there was no clear winner. In Florida, a swing state, fewer than 600 popular votes separated Bush and Gore. Florida law required a recount of votes and Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified that Bush has won the election by a 537-vote margin. The winner of Florida would determine the winner of the entire election, so a long month of legal battles ensued until a Supreme Court decision declared Bush the winner of Florida and, therefore, of the presidential election.
According to former Clinton political director Doug Sosnik, the 2020 election will see more battleground states in the South and Southwest than in the Midwest. This puts more electoral votes at stake, about 171 according to Sosnik’s prediction. Stakes are high especially in Texas, which has alone has 38 electoral votes.
The 2020 battleground states according to Doug Sosnik were Arizona, Floria, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Another prediction for the 2020 battleground states has laid out the same 10 states where the margin of victory for Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton in 2016 was less than 2%. These states were: Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Of these states, Trump defended Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina in the 2020 election - a total of 101 electoral votes. Trump won Florida and North Carolina. Joe Biden defended four states: Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Biden won all four of these states, plus Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.