The 38 states of America – Part 2

Welcome SSPers to Part 2 of my ongoing series about the “38 states of America”.  For those that don’t know what I’m referring to, the 38 states of America are a redrawing of the United States based on grouping together of economic, social, and political interests – sometimes referred to as “communities of interest”

The Map:  

In part 1 I went through the states in the Northeast Region, with the intention of giving the states ratings a la Charlie Cook, Stewart Rothenburg, et al, with regard to the 2012 presidential election and future federal elections in general.  Here’s a quick recap of part 1:

Kennebec – Solid D

Plymouth – Solid D

Mohawk – Toss Up

Hudson – Solid D

Susquehanna – Solid D

Allegheny – Lean D

Chesapeake – Likely D

Appalachia – Solid R

In part 2, we’re going to investigate the states within the Midwest Region.  There are 9 states in this region, Erie, Wabash, Mackinac, Dearborn, Osage, Prairie, Superior, Dakota, and Platte.

Erie – (South OH/North KY) – Total vote 2,904,184

Obama – 1,323,907 (45.6%)

McCain – 1,580,277 (54.4%)

PVI – R+7

Rating – Solid Republican

Now here’s a state that I thought would be much more competitive.  Erie basically consists of central and southern Ohio as well as parts of western Indiana and most of northern Kentucky.  As it turns out, most of the rural areas in this district are absolutely toxic for the Democrats, whether it be in western Ohio, northern Kentucky, or most notably of all the suburbs and exurbs surrounding Cincinnati.  In order to win, the democratic candidate would have to find a way to get the margins down in the rural counties while running up big margins in Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati.  If Columbus and Cincy keep moving leftward this could be competitive by end of the decade, but for now, Safe R.  

Mackinac – (Greater Michigan) – Total vote 4,305,104

Obama – 2,571,298 (59.7%)

McCain – 1,733,806 (40.3%)

PVI – D+7

Rating – Solid Democratic

Mackinac state is the opposite of Erie state, one I figured would be more competitive but it turns out to be a democratic stronghold.  The trouble here for the republicans is that some of the most republican parts of Michigan get cut out and given to Dearborn, and the state doesn’t extend far enough south into Ohio to pick up the vast red voting populations of the rural west.  As a result, the cities like Detroit, Toledo, Lansing, Flint, and Ann Arbor end up basically dominating the state’s politics.  The remaining rural areas aren’t all that republican either.  Safe for Dems.

Wabash – (Indiana/Kentucky/West IL) – Total vote 3,102,991

Obama – 1,499,893 (48.3%)

McCain –  1,603,098 (51.7%)

PVI – R+5

Rating – Likely Republican

Wabash state is a state based in Indiana and Kentucky, and covers a lot of Midwestern and upper South territory in between.  It would seem that this would be more of a republican stronghold than Erie state, but that’s actually not the case, as Obama took over 48% here.  He got that margin by running very strongly in the democratic bastions of Indianapolis and Louisville.  The rural areas are fairly tough though, especially down in Kentucky and in the suburbs and exurbs around Indy.  For the democrat to win they’d have to win big in the cities, and also engage voters in the mid-size cities and college towns like Evansville, Bloomington, Lexington, West Lafayette, and Muncie while not getting killed in the exurbs and rural country.  My guess is that this state would get some ads and visits, but if the republican isn’t winning here, he or she is definitely not winning nationally.

Dearborn – (Lake Michigan Corridor) – Total vote 7,104,345

Obama – 4,363,393 (61.4%)

McCain – 2,740,952 (38.6%)

PVI – D+8

Rating – Solid Democratic

Dearborn state surrounds the lower end of Lake Michigan, and it centers on Chicago but is actually a mix of big cities, mid-size towns, and rural area.  What little republican base there is in Dearborn seems to be centered on lower western Michigan, northern Indiana’s rural reaches, and the suburbs/exurbs of Milwaukee.  Ostensibly Chicago’s collar counties would be an opportunity for some republican votes too, but these areas all went blue in 2008 behind native son Barack Obama.  Kerry didn’t do nearly as well as Obama did in this state but I can’t imagine that he took less than 55% in a not so great year.  The combination of Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, and college towns like Kalamazoo, Dekalb, and South Bend is simply too much for any republican to overcome.  Safe D.

Osage – (Western IL & Eastern MO) – Total vote 2,486,318

Obama – 1,317,244 (53.0%)

McCain – 1,169,074 (47.0%)

PVI – Even

Rating – Toss Up

Osage state is a quintessential swing state.  It consists of most of southern and western Illinois along with most of eastern Missouri.  The state is centered on Saint Louis, which is the primary democratic stronghold within the state.  Obama was able to carry the state with 53% of the vote in 2008, equaling his national tally, and the PVI is even.  The republican base here is in the Missouri rural counties, and to a lesser extent those in central and lower Illinois, as these counties tend to be a little more swingish in national elections.  The democrat to win would have to ring up big margins in greater STL and do very well in the river counties just north and south of STL on both sides of the Mississippi.  There would be huge money, huge advertising, and many visits given to this state from both sides as this state is probably one of the few that will end up deciding most presidential races.

Prairie – (Iowa & Upper Mississippi Valley) – Total vote 1,600,690

Obama – 915,632 (57.2%)

McCain – 685,058 (42.8%)

PVI – D+4

Rating – Likely Democratic

Prairie state encompasses what amounts to the eastern two-thirds of Iowa combined with the extreme north of Missouri, northwestern Illinois, and southwestern Wisconsin.  This district comprises some of the most democratic rural territory in the US outside of New England, and though there aren’t any major cities in the state, the cities that do exist, like Des Moines, Iowa City, and the Quad Cities, all break heavily democratic as well.  Still, it’s not an impossible state for the republicans, if they were to pump a lot of effort into Prairie they might be able to turn it red.  This is the smallest state so far, so I’m not sure just how a big a deal it would be electorally.  I’m calling it Likely D.  

Superior – (Upper Midwest MI/WI/MN) – Total vote 4,039,225

Obama – 2,239,234 (55.4%)

McCain – 1,799,991 (44.6%)

PVI – D+2

Rating – Leans Democratic

Superior state stretches across the Canadian frontier of the Midwest from the upper peninsula of Michigan across most of Wisconsin and Minnesota.  At first glance, this would seem to be a favorable setup for the republicans with cities like Madison and Milwaukee drawn into nearby Dearborn, but alas, so were their cherry red suburban communities in SE Wisconsin.  The rural areas in Wisconsin are actually quite liberal aside from greater Green Bay, and the major metroplex of Minneapolis-St Paul is a real boon to the democratic candidate, as is the iron range of northeastern Minnesota.  The key area for the republican candidate is undoubtedly the “Bachmann zone” in the exurbs north and west of Minneapolis.  At D+2, this state would be a fight most cycles, similar to the battles fought in the upper Midwest that we’ve seen in the recent past.  Lots of time and effort would go into this state.

Dakota – (west MN, most of ND and SD) – Total vote 738,833

Obama – 357,984 (48.5%)

McCain – 380,849 (51.5%)

PVI – R+5

Rating – Likely Republican

Dakota state is roughly similar to the two Dakotas now, shifted slightly eastward into the western reaches of Minnesota.  It’s by far the smallest state we’ve seen thus far, and I believe is the smallest state of the lower 36.  I figured at the outset that this would be a walkover for the republicans, but surprisingly, Obama took nearly 49% of the vote and finished just 3% behind McCain.  Looking at the map, the key region for the democrats in Dakota is the Red River valley, Obama performed very well in the river counties of upper Minnesota as well as in Grand Forks and Fargo on the other side.  The Indian reservations are also a source of votes.  For the republicans, their strength comes in the western part of the state and from the farmland in general.  This state doesn’t provide an abundance of electoral votes and likely wouldn’t swing a presidential race, but would probably see campaign dollars because of its mild competitiveness and extremely cheap media.

Platte – (Central Plains, parts of IA, MO, KS, NE) – Total vote 2,732,639

Obama – 1,258,798 (46.1%)

McCain – 1,473,841 (53.9%)

PVI – R+7

Rating – Safe Republican

Platte state is a mostly rural state right in the heart of the country’s midsection.  It encompasses the western third of Iowa and Missouri and the eastern two-thirds of Nebraska and Kansas, along with a very small piece of South Dakota.  Just looking at the map, you’d think that the democrats got murdered here in 2008, but that isn’t completely true.  Bolstered by very strong performances in places like Kansas City, Omaha, Lincoln, and Lawrence, Barack Obama strung together a fairly surprising 46% of the vote.  Now of course the farm country out in these parts is very, very red, and it would be very hard for Team Blue to pick this state off in anything but a great democratic year, but it’s not as impossible as I thought initially.   Still, it’s red enough for me to call it Safe R.  In a 2010-style year Team Red probably puts up 60% or higher here.

That concludes part 2.  In part 3 we’ll look at the Southeast Region.

34 thoughts on “The 38 states of America – Part 2”

  1. of some parts of plains/mountain states are often not as Republican as they’re made out to be. For example, Obama won eastern ND and western MT- in Montana, through carrying Democratic strongholds like Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena by large margins as well as the reservations; in ND, through big swings in mid-sized cities like Grand Forks and Fargo as well as small towns and farmlands with a populist bent. I think Obama’s strength as a western candidate is often underplayed- he often got 15 point swings in some regions. I wonder how these areas will react to his re-election campaign; without introducing too much of my political thought that is probably out of the mainstream here on SSP, I’m not sure how his technocratic, “out of touch” image will play with some of these rural, populist voters who probably care more about whether they’ll get their Medicare or SS benefits than abortion or whatever.

  2. It looks like Alamo is going to be almost identical to Texas in terms of PVI.  It is essentially Texas but with some sliced edges.

  3. the El Dorado portion of Nevada was likely won by Obama, as it cuts out mega-Republican White Pine County. Add that to the Bay Area and El Dorado is on our side. San Gabriel takes the heavily Republican AZ counties of La Paz, Yuma, and Mohave (and possibly the heavily R city of St. George, Utah? hard to tell) and drowns them out with the impossibly populous Dem strongholds of Vegas and LA. Better yet, that state will only get more Democratic because of the Inland Empire. Cochise cuts out slightly more R sections than D sections of New Mexico, adds Democratic El Paso, and then most of Arizona with a few Republican portions excluded. It probably would have voted for Obama narrowly in 2008 and would likely be about even PVI if not for the McCain home state advantage. And Cascade takes the increasingly safe D states of WA and OR and makes them even safer.

    The only big loss I see for us in San Luis, which takes what was the even PVI state of Colorado and probably makes it R+3 or so.

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