UPDATED: The 12 Battleground States That Will Decide The Presidential Election

electoral college map

Photo: Courtesy of RealClearPolitics

Next year’s presidential election is set to be a close one by all indicators — including the all-important electoral college map.President Barack Obama was swept into office in 2008 with 365 electoral votes, having won several traditionally Republican states. But 14 months before his reelection, he is falling behind in the battleground states he has to win.

Michigan (16 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 57%, McCain 41%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 50% (T-13th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 48.9% (14th)

July Unemployment Rate: 10.9% (48th)

September Unemployment Rate: 11.1 (48th)

Analysis: Home of the auto-bailout, but also the fourth-worst unemployment rate in the nation, the margin in Michigan will undoubtedly be closer in 2012. Obama hasn't been the greatest friend to unions, but none of his opponents will be any better. Sen. John Kerry defeated President George W. Bush there in 2004.

BI Race Rating: Leans Democratic

Sources: CNN Election centre, Gallup, Bureau of labour Statistics. (Note: Aggregate approval for first six months of 2011)

Minnesota (10 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 54%, McCain 44%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 52% (12th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 48.2% (16th)

July Unemployment Rate: 7.2% (13th)

September Unemployment Rate: 6.9% (T-13th)

Analysis: Minnesota has sided with the Democratic candidate in all but one presidential election for the past half century. The state also bucked the trend last year by being one of only a handful of states where Democrats reclaimed control of the governor's office. However, Governor Mark Dayton barely edged out Republican challenger Tom Emmer by less than 10,000 votes in that race. Also, with Mitt Romney inching closer and closer to the nomination, its possible that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- who dropped out of the race and endorsed Romney -- could wind up as the number two on the GOP ticket

BI Race Rating: Leans Democratic


North Carolina (15 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 50%, McCain 49%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 46% (T-22nd)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 46.9% (23rd)

July Unemployment Rate: 10.1% (T-42nd)

September Unemployment Rate: 10.5% (T-43th)

Analysis: Obama won North Carolina by a hair in 2008, but he is unlikely to be victorious there again. The state's well-above-average unemployment rate will be a major obstacle, and is unlikely to be overcome by Democrats holding their convention in the state.

BI Race Rating: Likely Republican

New Hampshire (4 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 54%, McCain 45%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 40% (T-36th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 41.3% (38th)

July Unemployment Rate: 5.2% (4th)

September Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (4th)

Analysis: Granite State voters are notoriously independent and, unlike other New England states, aren't a surefire lock for a Democratic candidate. New Hampshire's unemployment rate is among the best in the nation, but it's approval of Obama's job performance is the lowest among the swing states. Additionally, Obama's record will be intensely criticised during the state's first-in-the-nation primary.

BI Race Rating: Toss-Up


Pennsylvania (20 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 55%, McCain 44%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 48% (T-19th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 46.3% (26th)

July Unemployment Rate: 7.8 (T-21st)

September Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (T-25th)

Analysis: Though considered a swing state, Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the last five presidential elections. Obama faced some speculation in 2008 that he would have trouble courting the state's white, industrial workers -- though he wound up handily winning there by an 11-point spread, at least in part due to the influence of native-son Vice President Joe Biden.

BI Race Rating: Leans Democratic


Wisconsin (10 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 56%, McCain 43%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 50% (T-13th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 47.8% (17th)

July Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (T-21st)

September Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (21st)

Analysis: Despite electing a Republican governor in 2010, Obama's approval rating remains remarkably high compared to the other swing states. Democrats have been organising in the state since February against Gov. Scott Walker's union policies, giving Obama an unusually energized base in the state. On the flip side, Democratic efforts to recall Walker have subsequently galvanised the state's Republicans, and polls indicate that the energy behind a Walker recall may be fading as well. Still, the state's traditional Democratic tilt and strong union base give Obama the edge here.

BI Race Rating: Leans Democratic


Colorado (9 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 54%, McCain 45%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 44% (T-27th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 45.2% (29th)

July Unemployment Rate: 8.5% (T-28th)

September Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (T-25th)

Analysis: Despite being surrounded almost exclusively by deep-red states, Colorado remains a swing state. Obama won the state in 2008, but he is one of only four Democratic candidates to do have done so since 1940. Colorado's Hispanic population has risen by slightly more than 41% over the past decade, a huge boom that could benefit Obama if that demographic continues to vote Democratic.

BI Race Rating: Toss Up

Iowa (6 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 54%, McCain 45%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 49% (18th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 47.5% (19th)

July Unemployment Rate: 6.0% (8th)

September Unemployment Rate: 6.0% (8th)

Analysis: Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment levels in the country, and Obama is generally well-liked there. The Republican presidential candidates are getting heavy exposure in Iowa thanks to the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses. The question is whether one of them can energize voters enough to put Iowa back in the GOP column.

BI Race Rating: Toss Up

Nevada (6 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 55%, McCain 43%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 44% (T-27th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 47.0% (22nd)

July Unemployment Rate: 12.9% (51st)

September Unemployment Rate: 13.4% (51st)

Analysis: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) surprised many pundits by holding on to his seat in last year's midterm elections. Reid won in part by framing his election as a choice between himself and a Tea Party ideologue, Sharron Angle, whose campaign was fraught with numerous gaffes. If Republicans nominate a more radical candidate, they may have a harder time winning the state in a general election. By contrast, polls have shown Obama running in a virtual dead heat with the more moderate Mitt Romney. Also troubling;ing for Obama is the fct that the state has the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

BI Race Rating: Leans Republican

Ohio (18 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 52%, McCain 47%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 45% (T-25th)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 47.4% (20th)

July Unemployment Rate: 9.0% (31st)

September Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (T-33rd)

Analysis: Ohio has sided with the winning candidate in every election but one since 1944, making it the ultimate swing state. As in Wisconsin, Ohio Democrats were energized earlier this year when their newly-elected Republican governor rolled back collective bargaining rights for the state's public employees. Holdover excitement from that showdown could provide a boost to Obama, and given that his approval rating has risen there since last summer, it's possible he may already be experiencing that surge.

BI Race Rating: Toss Up


Virginia (13 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 53%, McCain 47%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 46% (T-22)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 46.6% (24th)

July Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (T-9th)

September Unemployment Rate: 6.5% (10th)

Analysis: In 2008, Obama became the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964. The state has trended more purple in recent years; both of its sitting Senators are Democrats. That said, Obama is certainly weaker now than he was in 2008 when he won the state by about a six-point margin.

BI Race Rating: Leans Republican

Florida (29 Electoral Votes)

2008 Obama-McCain: Obama 51%, McCain 48%

President's Approval Rating (Aug.): 47% (21st)

President's Approval Rating (Nov.): 45.8% (27th)

July Unemployment Rate: 10.7% (45th)

September Unemployment Rate: 10.6 (T-45th)

Analysis: With the most electoral votes of any swing state and a divided electorate, the Sunshine State is a must win for any candidate. Issues like immigration, Israel and entitlements, which are becoming wedge points in the race, are exceedingly important to Florida voters. Florida decided the 2000 election, and it is poised to repeat.

BI Race Rating: Toss Up

The Electoral Map


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