I am a map reader. I love going to 270towin just to scroll through the maps and see the trends over the years. New York used to be quite the swing state, don't cha know? One day when I was perusing the maps, I noticed the seeds of our current map being planted in 1988. The 84 election was virtually a shutout for Reagan and the elections before that were from the era before the solid Republican South. 1988 was the year Iowa, Oregon, and Washington in particular, which had been consistently Republican, switched to reliably Democratic (aside from IA in 04). The only Dukakis state which has not become a part of our coalition is West Virginia. While Clinton won WV both times, we have not won the state in any of the last four elections. Clinton's victories in the south were the last gasp of that previous era combined with a spoiler factor, but in the rest of the country he was able to consolidate and expand on Dukakis' kernels of strength, leaving us essentially with the map we have today.
With Clinton's unusual circumstances in mind, I looked at the four elections since he left office to see what state are actually "swinging". Its a short list. And it looks really good for us.
In all, 40 states and the District of Columbia have voted for the same party in each election from 2000-2012, 18 states plus DC for the Democrat, 22 states for the Republican. More importantly, our states have 242 electoral votes to their 180. With that map, all we need to do is win Florida and its over.
Five states have gone for one party three of the last four elections. New Mexico, Iowa, and New Hampshire for us, Indiana and North Carolina for them. Clinton won the three Democratic leaning states both times and lost the Republican leaning states both times, so I will put them in their respective categories. That gives us 257 to 206 with the Democrat in the lead.
That leaves Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia which have split their votes in the last four elections. These are all states that Gore and Kerry lost and Obama won both times. Nevada was not really considered a swing state last cycle, but the rest I think will be competitive next cycle.
What strikes me is the way our strength has expanded and consolidated on those Dukakis states. We have been playing offense from the base he established in 1988. First we turned his toeholds in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and West Coast into regional dominance, then made forays first into the Mountain West then the upper South that seem to be gaining traction. Where we go from here is anyone's guess. If Republicans can cut the margins with Latinos, just to use an obvious example, we will have some trouble. Unforeseen events can change the landscape. But based on the trends I'm optimistic.