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Strategists Disagree on Which Swing States Will Be Most Important in 2012

Which swing state will have the biggest impact on next year’s presidential election: Colorado, Virginia, or Ohio?

According to a trio of strategists gathered at the National Journal Election Preview event on Tuesday, it could be any of the three.


The Buckeye State has traditionally been regarded as the country’s most critical bellwether, and, according to GOP pollster Whit Ayres, it will be again in 2012.

“It’s still the quintessential swing state,” said Ayres, who is working with GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s campaign.

Two Democratic pollsters disagreed, although they readily conceded that Ohio will still be important. Instead, they argued that Virginia and Colorado – once red states that both backed President Obama in 2008 – are now more important.


“I think if you win Colorado, it says what you’re doing in the rest of the country,” said Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. “I think if you win Virginia, it says something about how you did elsewhere.”

Another liberal pollster, Geoffrey Garin, argued that the president needs to win two of the following states to guarantee reelection: North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio.

The argument that Ohio no longer is the most prominent swing state reflects the country’s shifting demographics – to a more well-educated, racially diverse society.  As far as Democrats are concerned, it's also perhaps a recognition of the hard facts. A Quinnipiac Poll released last week showed Obama's popularity underwater in the state. Voters there oppose giving the president a second term by a margin of 49 percent to 44 percent; 51 percent disapprove of the job the president is doing.

Virginia’s shifting demographics may better reflect the country, at least compared to Ohio, which is still populated mostly with blue-collar whites who have been the least receptive to the president.

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