Tipping Point Analysis and Power Matrix Visualization of 11 Swing States in 2012 Presidential Election

Inspired by this 2012 article in the NY Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog, I used Nate Silver’s tipping point methodology to identify key swing states in the last presidential election.

The outcome of a presidential election depends on each of the states that together cast a combined total of 270 or more electoral votes for a candidate. But, only in some states is the race close enough to actually be considered competitive and not predetermined based on ingrained party loyalty. In addition, thanks to the electoral college, some states are given more weight than others.

The basic gist is that the “tipping point” state, the one that cast the 270th electoral college vote, is the king-maker president-maker.

Why is this relevant?

It seems to me that identifying this “tipping point” state and, let’s say, ten of its nearest neighbors (based on margin of victory and electoral votes) is a way to identify battleground states for the next election, or as a logical focal point for trying to win the political hearts and minds of the nation.

This attempt at playing political moneyball, of course, carries with it all sorts of assumptions. One of the biggest is using the past to predict the future. Another is looking at a single presidential election and making broad generalizations. We are assuming stable demographics. We are assuming more of the same, politically speaking, by disregarding the possibility of an inspiring candidate who can transcend partisan divisions.

But, by taking a long view and spreading investments over, say, 10 or 11 states, I believe that progressives can occupy this “sweet spot” in the electoral system and make real, lasting differences felt across the country.

As someone who believes in the power and righteousness of the grassroots (meaning everyday people who are directly impacted by a given policy issue), I think that progressives should invest in on-the-ground, local infrastructure and relationships. Efforts should be made to create two-way channels of communication, activities, and solutions between national-level focused progressives and state-level minded ones.

Justice Brandeis observed, states act as “laboratories of democracy.” This means to me that there are a lot of opportunities to demand and implement progressive solutions to social and economic issues.

Getting started

To get started, I gathered the following data: Continue reading