Click on a state to learn more about our work
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Alabama, the Yellowhammer State, joined the Union in December 1819, and has participated in all elections since 1820, except 1864. Democrats held strong majorities in Alabama through the 1970s, until the state abandoned Democrats at both the state and federal levels in response to civil rights legislation.
Alabama’s congressional delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with seven members and a 5-2 Republican majority. The political makeup gradually trended to be even more Republican as the seats have been split at a 6-1 Republican majority since 2011. Democrats have not held a majority in Alabama since the 104th Congress from 1995 to 1997. The 6-1 Republican majority is still in place today with Representative Terri Sewell being the lone Democrat in the state’s delegation.
History has shown an overall decrease of Alabama’s influence in Congress. Alabama had ten seats following the 1910 Census, but dropped to nine after the 1930 Census. Following the 1960 Census the number fell to eight, and following the 1970 Census the state now only has seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Senate seats have told a slightly different story compared to presidential elections and the split in the House of Representatives. Democrats held both seats from the 100th Congress until Senator Richard Shelby switched parties in the 103rd. Afterward, Republicans held both seats from 1997 until midway through the 115th Congress when Democrat Doug Jones replaced Luther Strange in a high-profile race against Republican Roy Moore in 2017. Doug Jones will have to again compete to retain his seat in 2020 in what is forecasted to be a tough contest.
While presidential electoral history in Alabama has been most recently dominated by Republicans, the Democrats once had a strong grip over the state’s governorship and other statewide offices. From 1831 until the end of the 20th century, only four Republicans held the office of governor in Alabama. George Wallace, a Democrat, served the longest as the state’s governor for 16 years over four terms. The current Governor of Alabama is Republican Kay Ivey, former lieutenant governor, and the Lieutenant Governor is Republican Will Ainsworth. The last Democratic governor was Don Siegelman from 1999 to 2003, and the last Democratic Lieutenant Governor was Jim Folsom Jr. who served from 2007 to 2011.
The population of Alabama has grown steadily over time. The population growth rate is at 0.26 percent per year, which makes Alabama the 36th fastest growing state. Positioned in the deep south, Alabama contains ample rural geography. Unlike other “rural states” the population living in these areas makes up 45 percent of the state’s population — meaning this elevated proportion of rural voters can hold significant impact in elections. The split amongst the population regarding political party affiliation must be considered, as 52 percent of adults in Alabama identify as Republicans, 35 percent as Democrats, and 13 percent consider themselves Independents. In 2018, over 60 percent of Alabama voters voted straight ticket.
From 1964 through today, there have only been two exceptions to Republican presidential candidates winning the state. Those two exceptions include George Wallace in 1968, the 45th Governor of Alabama who ran as a member of the American Independent Party, and Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. Since 2004, Republicans have routinely beaten Democrats in races in Alabama by significant margins. Republican presidential candidates have won Alabama by over 20 points since 2004 with Donald Trump most recently securing a 28 percent margin in 2016.
Arizona, the Grand Canyon State, has been a reliable Republican stronghold in America’s presidential races since the 1950’s. Democratic presidential candidates have carried the state only 8 times out of 27 elections, and 4 of those victories belong to a single candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
All told, only four Democrats have ever won Arizona at the presidential level. Bill Clinton’s victory there in 1996 offered a momentary reprieve from a 44-year losing streak for the Democratic Party, and no Democratic nominee for president has won the state since. Hillary Clinton outperformed the average Democratic candidate, almost matching President Obama’s 2008 performance of 45 percentage points, when she lost Arizona to Donald Trump by 3.5 points in 2016 with 44.6 percent of the vote.
The Arizona congressional delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with 6 members and a 5-1 Republican majority. The political makeup gradually trended Democratic as the state’s congressional districts increased to 9. Though the Republican Party generally held a majority, Democrats have secured slim majorities in recent history, including between 2009-2011 and 2013-2015. Following the midterm elections of 2018, the Democratic Party holds a 5-4 majority in the Arizona delegation.
Recent history has shown these slim Democratic majorities have not always aligned with greater national trends. The 5-4 Democratic majority between 2013-2015, for example, existed in the midst of an 8-year majority for Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Senate seats have historically followed the same course as presidential elections. In the state’s early days its senators were primarily Democratic, but with the election of Republican Barry Goldwater in 1952 and the retirement of Carl Hayden in 1969 – after serving an impressive 7 terms – the Republicans asserted themselves and Democrats became an exception. The recent election of Kyrsten Sinema, who won her race by 2.4 points, marked the first time in 31 years that Arizonans elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.
As with presidential and senatorial electoral history in Arizona – that is to say, starting with a Democratic streak and eventually becoming dominated by Republicans – so too goes the governorship and many other statewide offices. Janet Napolitano was the first Democratic governor elected since 1988. Following her resignation to serve in the Obama Administration as Secretary of Homeland Security, which allowed then Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer to succeed to the governorship, Republican candidates have since secured the governorship by comfortable margins: earning 54 percent of the state’s vote in 2010, 53 percent in 2014, and 56 percent in 2018.
The population of Arizona more than doubled between 1980 and 2008, and Latinos accounted for nearly 2/5 of that growth. Not only is the Latino population growing in Arizona, but so is its size in relation to other ethnic groups. The Latino population grew to 30 percent from 16 percent between 1980 and 2008, while the share of white Arizonans from 75 percent to 58 percent. In 2018, 23 percent of eligible voters in Arizona were Latino, and according to Pew Research they voted for Democratic candidates at both the senatorial and gubernatorial level by significant margins.
An additional demographic not to be overlooked is the rural population. Though Arizona has ample rural geography, compared to other “rural states” the population living in these areas is relatively small at only 4.9 percent. But this small number can still hold significant sway in high turnout elections, as was demonstrated during the 2018 midterms where approximately 26 percent of ballots cast were by rural voters.
Colorado, the Centennial State, gained statehood in 1876 and has voted predominately Republican from 1920 until 2004. Since then, the state has seen a distinct shift towards Democrats and has voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections. Many people don’t often think of the Western U.S. when they hear the term “Battleground state” but Colorado has solidified its status as just that.
Colorado’s House delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with six members and a 4-2 Republican majority. Most importantly, the number of seats in Colorado’s delegation has consistently increased over time. The state had merely four seats until the 93rd Congress, five seats until the 98th Congress, six seats until the 108th Congress, and now the state has a total of seven seats. The majority has shifted over time, but Democrats currently have the advantage.
Senate seats have historically varied between both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans held both of Colorado’s Senate seats from 1995 to 2005 with Senators Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Democrats held both seats from 2009 to 2015 with Senator Mark Udall along with Senator Michael Bennet. Today, Colorado’s Senate seats are split by Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, who bested Udall in 2014.
The office of Governor and Lieutenant Governor has also swung between Republicans and Democrats, but Democrats have held control of the office since 2007. The Governor is currently Jared Polis and the Lieutenant Governor is Dianne Primavera. Republicans last held the positions from 1999 to 2007.
Colorado is home to roughly 5.6 million people and is the 21st most populous state in the United States. The state is projected to grow to 7.8 million people by 2040 – a 47 percent increase from today. Rural communities account for a significant portion of Colorado’s landscape. Out of the state’s 64 total counties, over a third are classified as rural at 24 total counties.
In the last three presidential elections, Colorado went Democratic each time, pointing to a potential longer-term bluing of the political landscape. In 2008, former President Barack Obama beat John McCain 53.5 percent to 44.9 percent. In 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney 51.2 percent to 46.5 percent. And, in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton took the state, winning 48.2 percent to Donald Trump’s 43.3.
Indiana, the Hoosier State, has been a reliably Republican state in presidential elections for at least the last century, having given its electoral votes to Democratic presidential nominees only four times since 1916. Since the turn of the century the state has gone to a Democratic presidential nominee once: Barack Obama’s first election, which he won by a slim margin of just over 1 point against Republican nominee John McCain. The following presidential election, President Obama lost Indiana by a significant margin of over 10 points to the Republican challenger Mitt Romney. In the 2016 presidential election Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton fared much worse and lost to Republican president Donald Trump by approximately 19 points.
The Indiana delegation started the 21st Century in the 106th Congress with ten members and a 6-4 Republican majority. Their status as a majority was interrupted during the 110th and 111th Congresses, which saw the Democratic members of the delegation hold a 5-4 majority (the Indiana delegation lost a seat after the 107th Congress). The Democratic members’ time as a majority was brief, however, and they have remained in the minority of their state’s delegation since 2011. Today, the Indiana delegation counts nine members with a 7-2 Republican majority. The size of the Indiana delegation has fluctuated over time, but has been on a steady decline since the 1980’s, having lost two seats in that span. Observers note that the 2020 census could result in another contraction due to sluggish population growth compared to other states.
Senate seats since 1980 have been predominantly Republican controlled, with only two Democratic senators serving for a single term each. In that time period there was never a time when both Senate seats were controlled by Democrats. The most recent Democratic candidate to run was Joe Donnelly, an incumbent first elected in 2012. Donnelly lost to Republican Senator Mike Braun by 6 points after having won his first term by over 5 points.
Indiana’s state election results appear as a pendulum, swinging right for a few years before swinging left. The most recent three governors have been Republican, and the three before that Democratic. Going back further you have another three Republicans, preceded by another two Democratic governors. This general pattern has repeated since 1861. Indiana’s current Republican governor Eric Holcomb beat Democratic candidate John R. Gregg by 6 points, 51.4 to 45.4 in 2016. However, these margins are not typical of gubernatorial elections in Indiana. Gregg lost his first gubernatorial against Republican Mike Pence by approximately 3 points. In 2000, Democratic governor Frank O’Bannon was re-elected to his second term over Republican challenger David McIntosh by an impressive 14.9 points.
Rural voters in Indiana tend to be older and more conservative and are also more likely to be affected by fluctuations in international trade. As the country’s 10th largest producer of agricultural commodities and the 4th biggest exporter of soybeans, the Hoosier economy and its rural communities are sensitive to disruptions in trade and commodity prices. Overall, approximately 22 percent of Hoosiers live in rural counties as defined by the U.S. Census.
Iowa, the Hawkeye State, has historically been a key battleground in America’s presidential races. The state voted for Democratic candidate Al Gore in 2000 and Republican President George W. Bush in 2004 – both winning by less than one percent. Then, in 2008 and 2012, Iowans voted for Democratic President Obama by significant margins. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton did not fare as well, with Republican President Trump winning the state in 2016 by a near double-digit margin. This marked the worst loss for a Democratic presidential candidate in Iowa since Walter Mondale in 1984.
The Iowa delegation started the 21st Century in the 106th Congress with five members and a 4-1 Republican majority. The political makeup then swung throughout the 2000s, with Democrats holding a 3-2 majority from 2007-2013. In 2013, the Iowa delegation lost a member and, according to Tim Hagle, professor of political science at the University of Iowa, the state may risk losing another member by 2030. Iowa has had a fluctuating number of congressional delegates for some time, having dropped to four in the 113th Congress. The delegation loss is due to the state’s relatively slow growth respective to the rest of the country.
Recent history has shown that Iowa’s congressional delegation majorities have generally shifted in tandem with majority party control in Congress. Democrats gained the majority in the House of Representatives in 2007, lost it in 2010, and gained it back in 2019.
Senate seats were split, one to one, from 1985 until Senator Harkin’s retirement in 2015. Now, both senators are Republican, with Senator Joni Ernst winning her 2014 election by almost 10 points, 52.2 percent to 43.7 percent. This large margin is congruent with overall support for Democrats from rural voters in the state, which has declined by over 20 points from approximately -5 percent to approximately -28 percent from 2000 to 2016.
A number of recent state election results – including both of Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s gubernatorial wins – point to increasing Republican momentum as the state’s demographics shift. While Iowa is well-known for its rural characteristics and agriculture, there is an increasingly polarized urban-rural divide being exacerbated by shifting population demographics. Election maps have shown deeper red rural communities and deeper blue urban cities. Rural voters in Iowa are older and more conservative, while younger Iowans are choosing to live in densely populated urban cities and lean more Democratic.
Democrats have previously dominated in the state. Iowa helped elect President Obama to his first and second terms, and he himself credited Iowa for “igniting his unlikely rise to the presidency.” In 2008, former President Obama won more votes than any presidential candidate ever had in Iowa’s history, beating Senator John McCain 54 percent to 44.7 percent.
The 2012 election saw a narrower match up, but Iowa still ultimately helped elect former President Obama to his second term. Rural Democratic support in the state dipped to -1.9 percent that year from the 2008 election, but he still won all six electoral votes and carried the state 52.1 percent to 46.5 percent against Republican Mitt Romney.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton did not fare as well as Obama in her presidential contest – losing to President Donald Trump by almost 10 points, 41.7 percent to 51.1 percent. This significant dive in support aligns with a sharp decline in rural support for her candidacy.
For President Obama – and many other previous presidents – the Iowa caucus has played a major role in successfully winning the presidency. As the first state to hold its primary or caucus each year, Iowa is also the first test for presidential hopefuls. On the 10-year anniversary of his 2008 win, former President Barack Obama called the Iowa caucuses the highlight of his political career, saying, “To me, that was a more powerful night than the night I was elected president.”
Because of closely contested results over the last several presidential races, Michigan, the Great Lake State, is now considered a solid swing state. Michigan voted for Republican President George H. W. Bush in 1988 and Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1992. Since then it has voted for Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but then voted for Republican President Donald Trump by less than 1 percent. The 2016 presidential marked the closest race of its kind in Michigan’s entire history and shocked many due to how well Barack Obama had performed there four years earlier (he carried the state by over 9 points).
The Michigan delegation started the 21st Century in the 106th Congress with 16 members and a 10-6 Democratic majority. The political dominance of the Democratic party in the Michigan congressional delegation began to wane, however, in subsequent congresses as the state lost seats. Michigan has gone from having a delegation of 19 in 1967 down to its current size of 14. In the 108th Congress the delegation saw its Democratic majority replaced by a 9-6 Republican majority that endured, with little exception, until becoming evenly split (7 Democrats and 7 Republicans) following the 2018 election.
Recent history has shown Michigan’s congressional delegation majorities have generally shifted or stayed in place independent of majority party control in Congress. Democrats were a minority of the Congressional delegation from Michigan even when Democrats controlled the U.S. House in 2007. And in 2019, despite the comfortable majority Democratic control at the national level and victories at the state level, they only eked out a 50 percent share of seats in their state’s delegation.
Senate seats were dominated by the Republican party for nearly a century, but with the election of Democratic Senator Prentiss M. Brown in 1936 and subsequent appointment of Democratic Senator Blair Moody in 1951, a general shift took place that saw Democratic and Republican senators roughly split. More recent history, however, has been favorable to Democratic senators from Michigan, and with the exception of Republican Senator Spencer Abraham’s single term between 1995-2001, both of the state’s Senators have been Democratic since 1978.
Michigan’s recent statewide election results are perhaps the best illustration of the perennial internal power struggle between Democratic and Republican voters who make Michigan an important battleground state.
Since the turn of the century, the offices of governor and lieutenant governor have, like clockwork, flipped from Republican to Democrat and back again. For example, in 1988 Michigan voted for the Republican President George H. W. Bush, but only two years earlier, the state re-elected Democratic Governor James Blanchard for his second term. Similarly, in 2016 the state went to Republican President Donald Trump, but two years later elected Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to her first term.
The historically close nature of the most recent presidential election in Michigan makes it difficult to predict, as Robert Yoon of Inside Elections pondered if “2016 was the start of a long-term realignment from blue to red.”
Though many initially associate Michigan with Detroit, 25.4 percent of its population lives in rural areas, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The Partisan Voting Index (PVI), a score that indicates how much more or less Democratic or Republican an area is than the nation as a whole, paints a stark picture of how residents in each community feel that their interests are served by their leaders. Urban areas in Michigan are 4.5 points more Democratic, and rural counties are 10.5 points more Republican.
Minnesota, the North Star State, has in recent history been a reliable Democratic stronghold – voting for the Democratic presidential candidate in the past 11 election cycles. After joining the Union in 1858, Minnesota voted for Republican presidential candidates from 1860 through the unfolding of the Great Depression, with the exception of voting for Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. During the 21st century, Minnesota has only supported Democratic presidential hopefuls. Although the 2016 presidential election results placed the Democrat’s strong control over Minnesota in relative question, Hillary Clinton still remained victorious, besting Donald Trump by 1.5 percent. The 2016 results have given President Trump hope that he may swing the state in 2020, with his campaign now vowing to spend considerable resources in the state.
The Minnesota congressional delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with 8 members and a 6-2 Democrat majority. The delegation was held largely by Republicans from 1859 until the middle of the 20th century, then trended Democratic from 1975 until the present. Currently, Minnesota’s delegation has eight seats in total with a split of 5-3 Democrat majority.
In the Senate, seats have not been split since 2009, and Republicans have no held majority since the 101st Congress from 1989 to 1991. The last Republican majority in the Senate was 1947 to 1949. Currently, Democrats maintain a control over both Senate seats with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.
The statewide offices in Minnesota have historically leaned towards Republican control. In total, there have been 26 Republican governors of Minnesota compared to just 11 Democrats who have held the office. However, there has been a recent shift, and Republicans have not held the governorship since 2011. The Governor of Minnesota is currently Democrat Tim Walz and the Lieutenant Governor is Democrat Peggy Flanagan.
Minnesota’s population is increasing and, in the next 20 years, the youth population of Minnesota will undergo modest growth by about 32,000 people, and the elderly population will increase at a larger volume by greater than 510,000 people. Minnesota is the 12th largest state in the U.S. in terms of pure surface area and 21st in the U.S. in relation to population.
Minnesota is experiencing a shift of its population concentrating in urban areas. Nearly three-fourths of Minnesota residents are living in urban areas. The state’s 13 “entirely urban” counties are growing primarily because of international migration. Given the increased projection of the elderly population, it is important to note how the elderly populations of Minnesota are concentrated in rural areas. 44 percent of rural residents are 50 or older. Residents of Minnesota’s rural areas account for 8 percent of Minnesota’s population. While the total population of Minnesotans living in rural areas has remained relatively consistent since 1900, the expected growth of the state’s population should not be neglected.
New Hampshire, the Granite State, is considered a battleground state because of its high share of independent voters. The state has historically been Republican, but in recent elections, New Hampshire has shown a willingness to vote for Democratic presidential candidates. In the last five presidential elections, New Hampshire has voted Democratic four times, and the last time the state went for a Republican presidential candidate was for former President George W. Bush in 2000. Despite this positive winning trend for Democrats, recent elections have shown that a troubling negative trend in rural support for Democratic candidates could allow Republicans to claim the state in 2020.
The New Hampshire Congressional delegation has had two members since 1883 and began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with both seats held by Republicans. The political make-up of representatives swung throughout the 2000s, with Democrats gaining the majority in 2007, losing it in 2011, and gaining it back in 2017, after Democrat Carol Shea-Porter won a seat in the 2016 election. Now, in the 116th Congress, the New Hampshire delegation has two Democratic representatives, Chris Pappas and Ann McLane Kuster.
Senate seats in the state were represented by a Republican majority from the 1980s up until 2009, when Democrat Jeanne Shaheen won a seat in the 2008 election. The delegation was then split until 2017, after Democrat Maggie Hassan unseated former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte in what was one of the most competitive races of the election cycle, with Hassan only winning by 0.1 percent.
New Hampshire’s recent congressional elections point toward an upward trend in Democratic support in the state with all representatives and senators currently serving as Democrats. However, New Hampshire’s recent state elections demonstrate that Republicans can still win in the state. In 2016, Republican Chris Sununu won the open-seat race to succeed Governor Hassan, becoming the first Republican governor elected in New Hampshire since 2002. In 2018, Governor Sununu won reelection – beating Democrat Molly Kelly by approximately seven points.
Urban regions in New Hampshire are primarily in the southeast and more rural regions are mainly in the west and north. In 2017, out of the 1,342,795 residents of the state, 498,122 lived in rural areas. The state’s urban regions have larger populations, higher median incomes, and lower poverty rates.
Along with this growing divide, population changes are also affecting the state’s political make-up. According to a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, migration has brought younger voters to the state who are increasing their share of the voting bloc. The state has one of the smallest populations of people who were actually born there, with a 2016 study finding that only one-third of residents age 25 or older were born in New Hampshire. Further, of these new and younger residents, 35 percent viewed themselves as liberal, more than 40 percent viewed themselves as moderate, and almost 24 percent considered themselves to be conservative.
In 2008, former President Barack Obama beat Senator John McCain 54.3 percent to 44.8 percent, an almost 10-point margin. In 2012, former President Obama fared well in the state again, carrying it 52.2 percent to 46.4 percent against Republican Mitt Romney.
In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton ultimately won the state, but at a much closer margin than either of former President Obama’s elections. Clinton won 46.8 percent to 46.5 percent against President Donald Trump. The narrow win in the 2016 election points to the reality that New Hampshire still has a reliable conservative base.
North Dakota, the Roughrider State, was admitted to the union in 1889. The state has participated in 32 presidential elections in its history and has voted Republican in 26 of them. The state is currently thought to be an almost guaranteed win for Republicans in presidential elections. In the last five presidential elections, North Dakota has voted for a Republican each time, with the highest margin in 2016, when President Donald Trump won by approximately 36 percentage points.
North Dakota has had only one, at-large congressional district since 1973. The delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with Democrat Earl Pomeroy as its representative. Democrats held the seat until Republican Rick Berg won it by an almost 10 percent margin in the 2010 election. Republicans have held the seat since, with Kelly Armstrong currently representing North Dakota in the U.S. House.
Democrats held both of North Dakota’s Senate seats from 1987 until 2011, after Republican John Hoeven won an open-seat race against Democratic candidate Tracy Potter by 76.2 percent to 22.2 percent. The delegation was split from 2012 through 2019, with Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp winning in 2012 to fill the seat left vacant by retiring Democratic Senator Kent Conrad. In 2019, Republican Kevin Cramer bested Heitkamp, winning 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent. Senator Heitkamp won key cities in the state such as Fargo and Grand Forks, but Cramer carried the majority of the state’s rural counties.
This loss solidified an already dominant Republican control over the North Dakotan delegation.
The trend in North Dakota’s recent congressional elections threatens to shift the state from being competitive to reliably Republican, commensurate with declining rural support for Democrats.
North Dakota’s recent state elections, including the last gubernatorial and lieutenant governor elections, have also followed this trend. In 2016, Republican Doug Burgum defeated Democrat Marvin Nelson 76.7 percent to 19.4 percent to become the Governor of North Dakota. On Burgum’s ticket was Republican Brent Sanford, who is currently the lieutenant governor.
Overwhelming Republican support in North Dakota is reflective of the state’s urban-rural makeup. North Dakota has 53 counties – 39 of them are considered to be “completely rural” and 3 are considered to be “mostly rural.” 755,393 people live in the state, and in 2017, 49.6 percent of the state’s residents lived in a rural area. North Dakota is the 19th largest state in the country but is thinly populated comparatively. The state currently ranks 47th in terms of population. Democrats find success in the state’s populous cities, like Fargo at a population of 122,359 and Grand Forks, while Republicans thrive in the rural central and western parts of the state.
No Democrat has carried North Dakota in recent presidential elections. In 2008, former President Obama came the closest to carrying the state but still lost to Senator John McCain 44.7 percent to 53.3 percent. In 2012, President Obama was even less successful in gaining the support of these voters, losing the contest by 20 points, 38.9 percent to 58.7 percent, to Republican Mitt Romney.
In the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump won the state by a landslide, 63 percent to 27.2 percent against Hillary Clinton. This year, North Dakota was the state with the most dramatic increase in Republican support. It was predicted that President Trump would win the state, as Mitt Romney won it in 2012 by a total of 19.8 percentage points. Instead, Hillary Clinton won only two counties across the state.
Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, is generally considered a battleground state and part of the Democrats “Blue Wall.” It voted Democratic in all presidential elections held from 1992 up until 2016, when President Donald Trump won the commonwealth by 0.7 percent.
Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with 21 House seats. The delegation has been consistently losing representatives, down two after the 1990 census, another two after the 2000 census, and one more after the 2010 census. Currently, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives delegation has 18 representatives with one vacant seat.
Party control has also been fluctuating. Democrats started with majority control in the 106th Congress with an 11-10 majority, lost it in 2001, gained it back in 2007, lost it again in 2011, and currently have a majority of 9-8 and one vacant seat.
Pennsylvania’s Senate seats started the 21st century with two Republican members but became split in 2007 after Democrat Bob Casey won in the 2006 election against Republican Rick Santorum. Then, Democrats gained control of the Senate in 2009 and incumbent Republican Senator Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic party. Majority control was lost, and the Senate delegation became split once again in 2011 after Republican Pat Toomey took over Specter’s seat, where he still remains today.
Pennsylvania’s recent congressional elections point to swinging trends in the commonwealth between the Republican and Democratic parties. This is congruent with rural Democratic support in the state (displayed in the chart below), which went from -20 percent in 2000, to its highest at -14 percent in 2008, to its lowest at -46 percent in 2016.
Pennsylvania’s recent statewide elections have seen more support for Democrats. On the gubernatorial front, in 2014, Democrat Tom Wolf beat incumbent Republican Governor Tom Corbett, making Corbett the first incumbent Pennsylvania governor to lose reelection since Democrat William Bigler in 1854. In 2018, Wolf was re-elected to his second term, beating Republican Scott Wagner by a double-digit margin. The same year, the former Mayor of Braddock, Democrat John Fetterman, won the lieutenant governor position.
Political division in the commonwealth is congruent with the differences in urban and rural voters. Pennsylvania has an estimated population of over 12.8 million people, and nearly 1.5 million of them, about 11 percent, live in rural areas. Out of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, 48 of them are rural.
Age demographics in Pennsylvania have also shifted recently. In 2018, there were more voters aged 18-24 than there were voters aged older than 65 for the first time in the commonwealth’s history. Registered voters are also divided, with 48 percent being Democrats, 38 percent being Republicans and 1.2 million people being independent, causing the scale to flip either way.
Rural Democratic support in Pennsylvania was highest, although still not a positive vote percentage, when Pennsylvania elected former President Barack Obama to his first term. In 2008, Obama won 54.7 percent to 44.3 percent against Senator John McCain. The 2008 election saw the largest popular vote margin, 3,192,316 to 2,586,496, and President Obama faced a more modest 14-point margin in rural Democratic support. In 2012, Obama won the commonwealth again, carrying it 52 percent to 46.8 percent against Republican Mitt Romney.
However, come 2016, rural Democratic support in Pennsylvania bottomed out, with Hillary Clinton losing rural Democratic support by 46 points. President Donald Trump won 48.2 percent to 47.5 percent against Hillary Clinton, with a very close popular vote of 2,970,733 to 2,962,441. Hillary Clinton was favored to win, as Obama had won the commonwealth by 5.2 percentage points in 2012.
South Carolina, the Palmetto State, is one of the original 13 colonies and has voted in every presidential election except in 1864 due to secession. South Carolina used to vote almost exclusively Democratic but flipped to Republican in the 1960s in response to civil rights legislation. Since 1964, the state has voted Republican in every presidential election except when Jimmy Carter bested Gerald Ford in 1976. Republicans control all statewide offices, and the Senate and House delegations.
South Carolina’s House delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with six seats taken by four Republicans and two Democrats. The last time Democrats held the majority was in the 102nd Congress from 1991 to 1993, before the majority became split in 1993 and then taken over by the Republican Party in 1995. Currently, the delegation holds a Republican majority with five Republicans and two Democrats, the Democrats being newly elected Joe Cunningham and long-serving James Clyburn.
Senate seats in South Carolina are also both held by Republicans Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. The last time Democrats held both seats was in 1963, but the delegation was split from 1963 to 2005, until Fritz Hollings retired and was succeeded by Republican Jim DeMint in the 109th Congress.
The trends in South Carolina’s recent congressional elections reflect its position as a Republican stronghold and recent statewide elections in South Carolina have mirrored these results.
Both current Governor Henry McMaster and Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette are Republican. The last time a Democrat held the governor’s office in South Carolina was from 1999 to 2003 with Jim Hodges. In fact, Hodges was the only Democrat elected to the South Carolina Governor’s office since 1987.
33.7 percent of South Carolina’s total population is rural, and for a red stronghold, an unexpected number of counties are blue, with one third actually tending to vote more Democratic in major elections like the Senate, House, presidential, and gubernatorial ones.
In 2008, Senator John McCain beat former President Barack Obama 53.9 percent to 44.9 percent. And, Republican Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama by a larger margin in 2012, 54.6 percent to 44 percent.
In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won in some counties, including Charleston, but was far from winning the state. Donald Trump won South Carolina with an almost 15-point margin, beating Clinton 54.9 to 40.7 percent.
Texas, the Lone Star State, voted in its first presidential election in 1848. For about 100 years, from 1872 to 1976, the state voted Democratic in the majority of presidential elections. But, this changed when the state voted Republican in 1980. Since then, Texas has voted for a Republican each time and has remained a dependably red state. In fact, Republicans currently control all statewide offices, both houses of the state legislature, and have the overwhelming majority in the congressional delegation.
The House delegation in Texas has a total of 36 seats, second only to California’s 53.
The delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with 30 seats and a Democratic majority – 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans. Democrats lost that majority in 2005 in the 109th Congress after the state was redistricted. Republicans currently have control of the House delegation with 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
Republicans also have control of Texas’ Senate delegation. In fact, the last time a Democrat even held a Senate seat from the state was when Robert Krueger served in the 103rd Congress from January to June of 1993. The last time Democrats held both Senate seats was in the 87th Congress from 1961 to 1963 with William A. Blakley and Ralph W. Yarborough.
Texas’ recent state elections, including the last gubernatorial and lieutenant governor elections, have also followed the red trend. The Governor of Texas is currently Republican Greg Abbott and the Lieutenant Governor is Republican Dan Patrick. The last time a Democrat held the governor position in Texas was from 1991 to 1995 during the tenure of Ann Richards.
Despite the fact that Democrats have not won a statewide election since 1994, and that Republicans have carried the state in every presidential election for approximately the past four decades, changes in the state’s voter demographics point toward a new chance for Democrats in Texas.
Currently, Texas has 38 Electoral College votes, second only to California’s 55, but a growing population has the state set to gain more electoral votes beginning in 2024. If demographic trends like the growth of the minority population continue, Texas is likely to shift from a solid Republican state to a burgeoning battleground.
In 2008, Senator John McCain beat former President Barack Obama 55.5 percent to 43.7 percent. In 2012, President Obama fell further behind, losing with 41.4 percent to 57.2 percent against Republican Mitt Romney.
In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump unsurprisingly took the state’s electoral votes over Hillary Clinton, 52.2 percent to 43.2 percent. Clinton won in big cities like El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and Dallas, but Trump took much of the remainder of the state.
Beto O’Rourke, former Texas Representative, set a record for most votes for a Democrat in the state’s history when he ran for Senate against Senator Ted Cruz in 2018. O’Rourke lost that election, but announced his run for President in 2019.
Wisconsin, the Badger State, was granted statehood in 1848. The state has a history of electing Republicans, but Democrats won seven presidential elections from 1988 to 2012. In the last five presidential elections, the state voted Democratic four times, up until 2016, when the state was carried by President Donald Trump. Moving forward, Wisconsin can still be considered a battleground state.
The Wisconsin congressional delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with nine representatives and a 5-4 Democratic majority. In 2003, it lost a representative, and split evenly between 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans. The delegation remained split until 2007, after Democrat Steve Kagen won in the 2006 election against Republican John Gard. Democrats lost the majority again in 2011, after Kagen lost re-election to Republican Reid Ribble in 2010. Republicans currently hold a 5-3 majority.
Wisconsin started the 106th Congress with Democrats holding both Senate seats, which the party held until 2011, after Republican Ron Johnson won a seat in the 2010 election. Currently, Senate seats are divided between Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who won 17 counties in 2018 that President Trump carried in 2016, and Republican Ron Johnson.
Both parties have experienced success in Wisconsin’s recent state elections. In 2014, former Republican Governor Scott Walker, who was originally elected in 2010, won re-election. Then, in 2018, Democrat Tony Evers beat former Governor Walker in a very narrow race by a margin of 1.1 percentage points. Recent lieutenant governor elections have mirrored the top executive post, with former Republican Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch winning her contest in 2010 and again in 2014. She then lost to current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes in 2018.
Wisconsin’s demographics are changing. Since the 2010 Census, population growth has occurred almost entirely in the state’s cities, leaving rural areas shrinking and also experiencing less job growth. In 2017, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin had an estimated population of 5,795,483 people and about 1,498,256 of them lived in rural areas. Democrats in the state have strength in the urban regions and inner suburbs, while Republicans control the rural counties. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The Democrats’ core weakness is that its strength in urban areas and inner suburbs can leave the party stranded on geographic islands, disadvantaged in legislative and congressional districts that stretch across rural America.”
Rural Democratic support in the state was highest in 2008 and 2012. In 2008, former President Barack Obama carried the state 56.3 percent to 42.4 percent against Senator John McCain. Former President Obama also won the state in 2012, but by a slightly lower margin at 52.8 percent to 46.1 percent against Republican Mitt Romney.
Democrats in the state did not fare as well in 2016, though the election was still a close contest. President Donald Trump won Wisconsin 47.2 percent to 46.5 percent against Hillary Clinton. This was the first time a Republican candidate had won the state’s electoral votes since 1984.
For the foreseeable future the state will remain up for grabs. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said, “It swung in 2018, as it swung in 2016, as it swung in 2012, as it swung in 2010, as it swung in 2006.”