Introducing the ‘Big Six’

March 17, 2008

The Importance of FL, MI, MO, OH, PA & WI


As a PhD student who is currently trying to juggle a thesis with job hunting, I can only treat this website as a hobby, not as a full time job. This means that I am not going to be able to produce detailed filtered projections for fifty states (though I still will produce crude projections). However, I believe that it is possible to narrow the contest down to six bell-weather states; Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These states account for nearly a fifth of the electoral college and, with the exception of 1916, the winner of the six states’ electoral votes has always won the election in the 20th and 21st centuries. Indeed, the results have tended to mirror the overall electoral vote distribution with moderate landslides or better producing blowouts in the six states (1928, 1936, 1952, 1964, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1996) and close elections producing similarly close results (1960, 1968, 2000 & 2004). Indeed, had Florida gone the other way in 2000, the six state indicator would still have worked. Aficionados of the TV series The West Wing will also note that the six state indicator works for the fictional election of 2006, with Matt Santos winning 59-47.



  1. To be sure, these 6 states have been swing states and will probably continue to be. While the results of the these states will be close (especially if the overall race is close, some of these states will not be quite the swing states as others. Florida is actually tending back in the GOP direction so I do not see the Republicans taking the White House without Florida, while it is possible for the Democrats to win without Florida.

    Missouri can be somewhat unpredictable, but it is a pretty good swing state. In the last 80 years, it only voted against the winner once. On that occation, it voted against the GOP. However, in this modern era, MO actually leans towards the GOP.

    If the election is about national security, PA is a true swing state, otherwise it leans Blue. Michigan also leans Blue, but its unpredictability make it somewhat Purple.

    OHIO and Wisconsin are about the Purplest states. However, when the issue of National secuity is at play, WI is not as red as other states.

    Believe it or not, Tennesee actully has the longest winning streak. You might add states Minnesota, Iowa and New Mexico to your list of swing states. However, they do not have many electoral votes.

  2. Thanks, good point about Tennesee, but I’ll stick with these six for the moment. The idea is to find six states that I can follow in detail rather than 8-10.

  3. Ultimately, you are probably right, while it varies a little from election to election and even within campaigns, there are usually six states that deternmine the final election results. I don’t blame you for not following Tennesee. It will not be a swing state in 2008; I just brought it up to illustrate that swings states can evolve over time.

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