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Will the Real Battleground States Please Stand Up?

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An analysis of major media outlets' election projection maps finds few can agree on a definitive list of toss-up states in the 2012 presidential race

floridaseal10.jpgA recent Smart Politics report documented how the broadcast media can't always agree on what to call the handful of competitive states in the 2012 presidential election - from "swing states," to "battleground states," to "purple states," to "toss-up states."

Nor are the nation's biggest media outlets in agreement when it comes to deciding on which states should be tagged with these labels.

In fact, they range from as few as three states to as many as 16.

A Smart Politics review of the 2012 electoral projection maps released by 12 major media outlets finds they yield 10 different lists designating the most competitive states to watch this cycle (e.g. battleground / swing / purple / toss-up).

The 12 news outlets under analysis for this report are ABC, CNN, Huffington Post, MSNBC, National Journal, New York Times, PBS, POLITICO, Real Clear Politics, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

Data from their electoral projection maps was harvested on August 2nd.

The number of competitive states deemed "toss-ups" ranged from a low of just three at the Huffington Post (Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia) to a high of 16 at National Journal (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin).

USA Today and the Wall Street Journal listed 12 states with POLITICO at 10, MSNBC at nine, ABC, New York Times, Real Clear Politics, and Washington Post at eight, and CNN and PBS at seven.

The number of electoral votes considered up for grabs peaked at 193 with National Journal followed by 148 at USA Today, 147 at the Wall Street Journal, 126 at POLITICO, 110 at MSNBC, 100 at ABC and Real Clear Politics, 95 at the New York Times and Washington Post, 85 at CNN and PBS, and 57 at the Huffington Post.

Only two pairs of media outlets concurred on which states should be considered toss-ups at this stage of the campaign:

· CNN and PBS agreed on seven states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia.

· ABC and Real Clear Politics were in agreement on eight states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

Toss-Up States by Media Outlet in 2012 Presidential Electoral Projection Maps

State
ABC
CNN
Huff Post
MSNBC
Nat'l J
NYT
PBS
Politico
RCP
USA Today
Wash Post
WSJ
AZ
X
X
CO
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
FL
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
IA
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
IN
X
MI
X
X
X
X
MN
X
MO
X
X
NC
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
NH
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
NM
X
X
NV
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
OH
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
PA
X
X
VA
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
WI
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
EC Votes
100
85
57
110
193
95
85
126
100
148
95
147
# States
8
7
3
9
16
8
7
10
8
12
8
12
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Only two states appeared on the lists of each of the dozen media outlets under analysis: Florida and Virginia.

In 2008, Florida was the fifth most narrowly decided contest (+2.8 points for Obama) behind Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, and Montana while Virginia was eighth (+6.3 points for Obama).

Another five states were listed by 11 outlets: Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio. Huffington Post opted to rate each under its "Leans Obama" category instead.

After this group came North Carolina which appeared on eight lists, followed by Wisconsin at seven, Michigan at four, Arizona, Missouri, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania at two, and Indiana and Minnesota at one.

Michigan was listed by National Journal, POLITICO, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.

Arizona and Missouri made the cut at National Journal and the Wall Street Journal while New Mexico and Pennsylvania did so at National Journal and USA Today.

National Journal was the only outlet under analysis to designate Indiana and Minnesota as battlegrounds in 2012.

Most Commonly Listed 2012 Presidential Battleground States Across 12 Media Outlets

State
Total
Florida
12
Virginia
12
Colorado
11
Iowa
11
Nevada
11
New Hampshire
11
Ohio
11
North Carolina
8
Wisconsin
7
Michigan
4
Arizona
2
Missouri
2
New Mexico
2
Pennsylvania
2
Indiana
1
Minnesota
1
Note: Outlets under analysis are ABC, CNN, Huffington Post, MSNBC, National Journal, PBS, POLITICO, Real Clear Politics, USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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Previous post: Swing States, Battleground States, or Purple States?
Next post: Missouri GOP US Senate Barnburner Poised for Closest Primary Finish in 56 Years

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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