The Corner

Romney Failed to Make Sizeable Gains in Swing States

During the past few days, most of the post-election commentary has focused largely on turnout and demographics. Pundits have spent comparatively little time analyzing the performance of the Romney-Ryan ticket in various swing states. This is unfortunate because with a divided country, swing-state performance may well prove decisive in future election cycles.

Interestingly, the election results indicate that the Romney-Ryan ticket made smaller gains in the eight swing states than in the rest of the country. John McCain lost the popular vote to Barack Obama by 7.2 percentage points in 2008. Though the votes are not completely counted yet, it appears that Mitt Romney will lose the popular vote to President Obama by about 3.1 percentage points. As such, the Romany-Ryan ticket outperformed the McCain-Palin ticket by about 4.1 percentage points nationally.

However, as the chart below shows, Romney’s popular-vote gains in the eight swing states were below their national average. In fact, Nevada was the only swing state where Romney’s gain exceeded his national average. If the Romney-Ryan ticket had gained 4.1 percentage points in each state, they would have won both Florida and Ohio and been only about two states away from the 270 electoral votes necessary for victory.

Romney-Ryan Gain

2008                            2012

CO                  53.5–44.9                    52.1–46.5                    3.0

IA                    54.0– 44.7                   52.1–46.5                    3.7

FL                   50.9–48.4                    49.9–49.3                    1.9

OH                  51.2–47.2                    50.1–48.2                    2.1

NH                  54.3–44.8                    52.2–46.4                    3.7

NV                  55.1–42.7                    52.3–45.7                    5.8

NC                  49.9–49.5                    48.4–50.6                    2.6

VA                  52.7–46.4                    50.8–47.8                    3.3

Nationally       52.9-45.7                     50.8-47.7                     4.1

So why did Romney underperform in these swing states? It is hard to say for sure. The Obama team may have utilized more effective television ads. They may also have enjoyed a superior get-out-the-vote operation. There may have been idiosyncratic factors that limited Republican gains in these states. However, there is a good chance that this group of eight states will prove pivotal in future elections. As such, the Republicans party would do well to identify strategies for both mobilizing Republican voters and expanding the Republican base in these states.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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