In his June 2016 article ‘How the red and blue map evolved over the past century’, Robert David Sullivan makes a few references to a ‘tipping point county’, by which he means a county that switched parties in the same election as their states, in cases where neither the state nor the county has ever switched parties again:

Niagara County, in New York, and La Crosse County, in Wisconsin, seem to have provided tipping points [in 1988], as their states haven’t voted Republican since.

California’s switch coincided with Sacramento County turning Democratic; in Illinois, a tipping point was Champaign…


Now that I’ve had a chance to watch at least one network’s (Fox News’) coverage of the 2020 election, one thing that strikes me is how quickly Donald Trump lost his popular vote lead in the last election.

It was in 2004 that networks began displaying the national popular vote with some regularity over election night. In 2020, it seems that networks gave much less importance to the national popular vote. Fox News showed it sparingly, and without percentage figures until after midnight on the East coast. (Lest one think that is because of partisanship, it doesn’t appear as though…


Iowa: the new anti-bellwether (for now)

In 2011, Robert David Sullivan called West Virginia the best anti-bellwether state, given that it was the only state to have voted for losers of different parties within the previous six elections (Dukakis in 1988 and McCain in 2008). It turned out that West Virginia had simply transitioned from being solidly blue to being solidly red. Henceforth, at least for the foreseeable future, West Virginia is likely to ‘always [be] an outlier on one side of the partisan divide’ (which was Sullivan’s quibble with Josh Goodman’s contention that Utah was the best anti-bellwether). …


In many ways, Donald Trump put in an impressive performance in the 2020 election. However, if he was going to win re-election, it was likely going to resemble 2004, when George W. Bush made those parts of small-town and rural America that had already long been red, even redder; made those parts of small-town and rural America that had been blue until he flipped them in 2000, still redder; and made still further inroads into then-traditionally blue parts of small-town and rural America.

To some degree, Trump did do this. But he didn’t do so to the same extent as…


‘Large state’ is a term that needs some precision. It might not seem all that important, but in 2008, George Will said that ‘Ohio’s the only large state outside the South that [Bush] carried.’ Insofar as Will is making a point about national politics, it is actually important to have a non-fuzzy definition of a ‘large state’.

Now, a number of analysts’ intuitions appear to have converged at around 15 electoral votes or so as the threshold for a ‘large state’. In 1988, Walter Manley II analysed Dukakis’ and Bush Sr’s chances in the seven contested ‘electoral-rich states’ (explicitly justifying…


Almost every state — and all the close states — have certified their election results. Which means we can figure out what 2020’s ‘magic number’ is.

An election’s ‘magic number’ is ‘the number of voters who, by switching their votes, could reverse the outcome of a Presidential election’. For example, the ‘magic number’ in 2000 was 269 voters in one state, Florida. If that number of voters in Florida had switched from Bush to Gore, Gore would have won Florida by one vote — 2,912,522 to 2,912,521 — and therefore the election.

In 2020, a switch of 40,831 voters in…


Shortly after the 2012 election, Jacopo della Quercia defined Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio as the ‘Bellwether Belt’, because these four states’ collective behaviour had tended to predict election outcomes over a historically long term. However, there are a number of possible groups of states whose collective behaviour has predicted election outcomes, so I will be using ‘bellwether belt’, in a general sense, to refer to any such group of states.

Perhaps the oldest ‘bellwether belt’ is the ‘Route 30 states’. Route 30 runs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but ‘the Route 30 states’ seem to have generally been…


Votes are still trickling in from the 2020 election, but it appears that there is enough certainty to say that Clallam County, Washington now holds the record for the longest run of picking the presidential winner. It last backed a loser in 1976, when it voted for Gerald Ford.

What’s interesting is that there were a number of bellwether counties, and they were nearly unanimous in voting to re-elect Trump. Perhaps the most famous is Vigo County, Indiana. But if a bellwether county is one that has voted for the winner in at least ten presidential elections in a row…


Here, I discussed what state was most analogous to Ohio for the Democracy, in the sense that it was nearly the case (or had remained the case for the longest) that no Democrat had won without it.

But is the fact of no Republican’s having won without Ohio itself all that interesting or significant? Is Ohio somehow representative of the Republican Party’s historic base?

Well, it is true that no Republican has won without Ohio, and it is the only state whereof this is true, although there were other states whereof this was true until fairly recently. Until 2004, no…


Every election, we can rely on someone remarking that no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio (although, if Ohio is drifting toward becoming a solid red state, that may become less pertinent). These remarks carry the somewhat superstitious implication that Republicans can’t win without Ohio. (After Ohio was called for George W. Bush in 2000, Jeff Greenfield remarked that Ohio was a state Bush ‘had to have because [Republicans] just don’t win the White House without it’.)

Presumably, however, the significance of no Republican having won without Ohio lies, at least implicitly, in Ohio’s being particularly representative…

Matt Ravenscroft

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