Imagine a breathtaking penthouse suite atop a building whose timbers are rotting.
That essentially summarizes the Democratic position in the 11 swing states that both sides consider the most likely tipping points in the 2016 presidential election. While Democrats have opened a clear presidential advantage in these states over the past two decades, they approach 2016 decimated in almost every relevant down-ballot office, from the U.S. House to the state legislatures and governorships. In these other contests, "there are real structural issues that we have got to come to terms with," says Steve Schale, the top Florida strategist for President Obama in 2008 and 2012.
The list of key swing states that both sides have targeted in recent presidential elections includes Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida in the Southeast; Colorado and Nevada in the Southwest; and across the Rust Belt, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Next America has analyzed the changing demographic profile of these states in a series of stories over the past three weeks.
Recent Democratic presidential nominees have run strongly across these critical battlefields. President Obama won all 11 of these states in 2008 and each of them except North Carolina in 2012. Looking back over the past six presidential elections since 1992, Democratic presidential candidates have carried these states 45 times out of a possible 66 chances. Democrats have carried three of these swing states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) in all of the past six elections; New Hampshire and Iowa five times; Ohio and Nevada four times; and Colorado and Florida three times. Across this terrain, Republicans have won a majority of the past six elections only in North Carolina (five GOP victories) and Virginia (four, though Obama won the last two.)