Saturday, October 16, 2004

Swingers!

I've really been enjoying the Swingers! series of articles at Slate. They're an in-depth look at some aspect of each of the 20-odd states that are most in play in the current election.

In the Washington State article, one learns that the state is almost an inverse bell-weather: "It chose Nixon over Kennedy but then spurned Tricky Dick by going for Humphrey in 1968. In 1976, Washington chose Gerald Ford, and in 2000 it went for Al Gore. " The article on New Mexico focuses on the influence of Gov. Bill Richardson on the election and the potential influence of the election on him. (cf. the 2000 election and Gov. John Engler of Michigan.) The article on Maine talks about the state's quirky electoral vote laws: two are awarded to the statewide victor, one each awarded by victory in each congressional district, of which Maine has two. Hence a 3-1 voting distribution is a very real possibility. The article on Oregon looks at the state's voting system, which is conducted entirely by mail -- it's a very different get-out-the-vote system here.

The most recent article is Delaware, subtitled "It's up for grabs, and no one cares." Until 2000, Delaware had the longest streak of voting for the victor in the presidential campaign -- from 1952 on. Delware has three counties and the Democratic-leaning northern one (part of the greater Philadelphia area) used to balance out the Republican leaning-southern two (which were more culturally Southern). But it's not quite the swing state it used to be. Recent population influx from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey helped tilt the balance decidedly in Gore's favor in the 2000 election.

The more interesting part of story, to me, was the "no one cares" angle. Neither campaign seems to be seriously contesting the state. I remember reading that this was true back in the 2000, as well. Whichever article it was that I read claimed that to have received leaks about the states on the victory list of each campaign. Some dozen states were on both lists. Delaware was the only state on neither's. Read Slate's article for some clues on why, but some of it has to do with the political geography of television, an aspect of campaigning that is generally under appreciated. I might comment on it more at some point.

As for the Swingers! series, at the rate they've been going, I'm dubious of their ability to finish before the election. They're only about halfway through (Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennesee, and West Virginia are also completed), but hopefully they'll get to Michigan before too long. (It's my original home state.)

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