In the two very close elections in 2000 and 2004 only three states, New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico switched from one political ticket to the other. 47 other states and the District of Columbia kept their electoral allegiance in both contests. This remarkable consistency is uncommon from cycle to cycle and changed dramatically in 2008 when Barack Obama carried all three states as well as several other generally red states. As of this writing it looks as if the election in 2012 will look a lot like 2004 so small states will become very important and could make the difference between winning and losing
George Bush beat Al Gore in New Hampshire by about 7,000 votes and then lost the state to John Kerry by about 9,000 votes in 2004. Needless to say, had Gore overcome Bush in the Granite State he would have become president. Al Gore carried Iowa in 2000 by about 4,000 votes and George Bush carried the state by about 10,000 votes in 2004. In 2000, nobody knew who won New Mexico for a couple of weeks until Al Gore was declared the winner by about 350 votes among loud calls of massive voter irregularities in the Land of Enchantment. In 2004, George Bush was able to carry the state by about 6,000 votes. It is clear that any number of factors could have changed the result of any of these states in 2000 and 2004.
In 2012 New Hampshire has been (until today) trending a bit Democratic but the latest Rasmussen poll has Mitt Romney up by 3 (48-45). He’s spent a lot of time in the state, vacations in the state and was governor of nearby Massachusetts. Up until the 1990s the Granite State was reliably Republican but Bill Clinton carried the state twice and Democrats have done well ever since at every electoral level. The state’s two political machines will be locked in a tough death match in the last two months of this contest. There’s only four Electoral Votes in the state but Obama and Romney will work hard for them.
Iowa is close but has been the most likely to be a Romney state. He’s been marginally ahead in several polls this summer and, of course, spent a ton of time there getting ready for the January caucus. Iowa is ground zero for small state political battle and both candidates have visited and will be traveling there a lot before November. It will be interesting to see how effective the GOTV effort is as I believe that will make all the difference in the quest for those 6 Electoral Votes.
While New Mexico was close in 2000 and 2004, Barack Obama carried the state by 15% in 2008, crushing John McCain from nearby Arizona. With one of the highest Hispanic populations in the country, Democrats have done well at all levels. In 2010, the GOP did elect a Republican governor (she’s a Hispanic female) and it is hard to know if Mitt Romney can convince voters in the state to abandon the President. Obama has led in the state for most of the year, sometimes by as much as 10%. Lately his lead has deteriorated somewhat but he’s still ahead. If Romney does win here, he’ll probably win the other two states in question as well. If he does win all three states, he’ll gain 15 valuable Electoral Votes in his quest for the Presidency.