Donald Trump

President Clinton or Trump? Watch These Battleground States

Battleground states are going to determine who wins the 2016 election

There’s a reason why Donald Trump’s stumping in New Hampshire Monday while Hillary Clinton holds a family affair in Philadelphia. Their many visits to Florida, North Carolina and Ohio are no coincidence, either.

Battleground states are going to determine who wins the 2016 election. As the voting returns come in on Tuesday, here are states to watch. 

Arizona | Electoral College votes: 11
How it’s looking:
Arizona is fairly new to the swing-state club. The state hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1996, and that was an anomaly. But because of its large immigrant and Latino populations, Clinton’s chances are looking better than usual; she’s galvanized more support from the Hispanic population than Obama, and it shows. As college-educated young people move to the south, the voter demography is getting more liberal, and NBC News' battleground map has the state in the tossup category. Still, it will be an upset if Clinton wins Arizona, according to elections forecasts by FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times.

Counties to watch:
Maricopa is the fourth most populous county in the United States. It’s gone Republican since 1948.

Colorado | Electoral College votes: 9
How it’s looking:
The NBC News battleground map has Colorado leaning Democratic, bolstered by the suburban and Latino vote. The New York Times and FiveThirtyEight each predict a win for Clinton by several points. 

Counties to watch:
While Jefferson County went with Obama in 2008 and 2012, it also gave Bush victories in 2000 and 2004. Arapahoe County, a traditionally Republican area, is turning purple following an influx of immigrants.

Florida | Electoral College votes: 29
How it’s looking:
“Florida, of course, is pretty much the premier big state that’s a swing state,” said Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida professor who specializes in Sunshine State politics. 

Tied with New York for the third most electoral college votes in the union, Florida is a prized battleground during the general election. A Republican hasn’t won the state since 1992, and, on paper, MacManus says Hillary should nab the victory. But, she continued, “This is hardly an on-paper election.” 

NBC News' battleground map has Florida listed as a tossup. FiveThirtyEight shows Trump has a bit of an edge, while The New York Times' forecast gives Clinton a small edge.  

“The last three elections, including the 2012 presidential, the victor has only won Florida by 1 percent or so,” MacManus said. “When you have 1-percent elections, it makes micro-targeting very important and essential, because if you ignore one group and they feel that, you could lose.”

Trump finds support among Floridians who still feel as if they’re suffering from a bad economy and who are concerned for their family’s safety in relation to perceived terror threats. Meanwhile, Clinton is trying to mobilize the Latino and millennial demographics. The Cuban community in Florida has a reputation for conservatism, but as the younger generations reach voting age, they’re showing a more liberal tendency.

Even if Florida’s retirees are being replaced by millennials, that doesn’t mean they’ll make it to the voting booths.

“The younger voters really aren’t that keen on the two-party system,” MacManus said. “Who knows whether they’re going to vote or not.” 

Counties to watch:
Hillsborough County, with its seat in Tampa, has correctly chosen the president in every election since 1960, except in 1992. Barack Obama won 53 percent to Mitt Romney’s 46 percent in 2012.

Orange County in the Orlando area tended red until recent years, and Polk and Pasco are also contentious. Volusia, which used to be a Democratic stronghold, has shown some Republican tendencies lately. 

Georgia | Electoral college votes: 16
How it’s looking:
NBC News moved Georgia from leaning GOP to tossup in its final battleground map, though FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times both predict a Trump win. It’s significant that the state is in contention, which signals a demographic shift. Forty-three percent of the electorate is now college educated, and like North Carolina, liberal white voters have officially made Georgia a battleground.

Counties to watch:
Gwinnett County typically goes Republican, but the wealthy suburb northeast of Atlanta may not go Trump's way, NBC News reported. Clayton is an African American nucleus, and Clinton needs high turnout there to even have the potential of a victory in Georgia.

Iowa | Electoral college votes: 6
How it’s looking:
Iowa has gone blue in six out of the last seven elections. So why do The New York Times and FiveThirtyEight have it going red and NBC News leaning GOP this year?

According to Dennis Goldford, professor of political science at Drake University in Des Moines, there are three reasons. One is that “the Clintons never really established themselves here in Iowa.” Another is that, while some Republicans have distanced themselves from this presidential election, Iowa’s state leadership has been openly supportive of the Trump-Pence ticket. The last is the appeal of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra for rural Iowa.

“In some ways this election is a growing fight between the expanding, prospering urban segment of America and the declining rural segment,” Goldford said. 

The Hawkeye State also has a large white, working-class population, especially among the 45-and-up demographic.

“You have an older electorate in Iowa, and they’re less likely to have a college education, which means they would be more likely to incline toward Donald Trump,” Goldford said. 

As a manufacturing state, Iowa was hard hit by the great recession.

“If the country as a whole got a cold, manufacturing caught pneumonia,” Goldford said. That could mean Trump is getting support from his perceived economic prowess and vow to bolster the American manufacturing industry. 

Counties to watch:
Polk, Linn, Cedar, Scott, and Black Hawk are more urban counties. “To win statewide, a Democrat needs to roll up big majorities,” Goldford said. In 2012, Obama won both Scott and Polk counties by 56 percent.

Michigan | Electoral College votes: 16
How it’s looking:
Republicans like to call Michigan a battleground state because it can sometimes go red during off years, but a Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won the state since 1988. NBC News reports that Michigan is leaning Democratic and, according to FiveThirtyEight's forecast, Clinton has a big advantage. 

“There really hasn’t been a point in this campaign where she’s been trailing,” said Susan J. Demas, publisher and editor at Inside Michigan Politics.

While the Flint water crisis factored heavily in the Democratic primary, it “has really gotten buried on the priority list for both candidates” since July, Demas said.

Counties to watch:
Kalamazoo County tends to be a bellwether. Macomb County is fertile ground for Trump, while Clinton seems to be making headway in Oakland and western Michigan. According to Demas, if Clinton wins Oakland — a wealthy Republican county — by double digits, she will “send shockwaves” through the state.

Nevada | Electoral College votes: 6
How it’s looking:
“We’re a bellwether,” said David F. Damore, professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Every time since ’76, we’ve gone with the winner.”

In Nevada, neither party has a stronghold. The Democratic organization is almost entirely devoted to longtime Sen. Harry Reid, Damore said, while the Republican base is weak. The state is also 20 percent immigrant and has the smallest native-born population in the United States. Most citizens originate from other states. NBC News' battleground map shows Nevada leaning Democratic. FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times have Clinton and Trump in a tight race, with the edge to Clinton.

“We have demography that provides both parties with a likelihood of winning,” Damore said.

Working-class whites make up the conservative support in Nevada. “That’s kind of who the Republican party is here,” Damore said. Trump has played the media well, but he’s done “nothing in terms of ground game at all,” according to Damore.

Meanwhile, Clinton is targeting white suburban women alongside U.S. Rep. Dina Titus.

Counties to watch:
More than 70 perent of the state's population lives in Clark County. “It’s the most concentrated population in a state of this size,” Damore said. Democrats will try to build a firewall around the urban area, which includes Las Vegas. However, Clark historically undervotes, while Nevada’s rural Republican communities tend to comprise more of the vote than their percentage of the population. If things seem tight, Washoe, with its county seat in Reno, is where to look. The county has a slightly higher Republican registration, but it went for Barack Obama in 2012 and could go either way this year.

New Hampshire | Electoral College votes: 4
How it’s looking:
With only four electoral college votes, New Hampshire is seemingly inconsequential. But there’s a reason why candidates have spent so much time and money there: if Al Gore had won the state, he would have been president in 2000. During tight elections, New Hampshire can determine who takes it all.

NBC News has it in the tossups, where it belongs, according to Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. 

“It’s neither red nor blue,” said Levesque. “It’s a tossup. And when we do have a definitive race, it’s usually not that definitive.” 

Clinton has a higher chance of winning the state than Trump, according to FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times. On Monday, President Obama will play surrogate for Clinton in New Hampshire, while Trump will make a personal appearance.

Counties to watch:
Londonderry and Hillsborough tend to be bellwethers. Hillsborough is typically a close call. In 2012, Obama won the county by a 2-point margin.

Ohio | Electoral College votes: 18
How it’s looking:
Despite the cast of “The West Wing” campaigning for Clinton in Ohio, Trump has a better chance of winning here than Clinton in FiveThirtyEight's forecast. The New York Times sees a closer race and NBC News has Ohio marked as a tossup. 

Counties to watch:
Stark County might split down the middle. In 2012, 49 percent of the vote went to each major candidate. Also look to Hamilton County. The Cincinnati area was a GOP stronghold that broke for Obama in the last two cycles, so Clinton will need to do well there, according to NBC News.  

Pennsylvania | Electoral College votes: 20
How it’s looking:
After the Republican National Convention, Trump’s campaign said it would focus on four battleground states: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“We’re the most Democratic of the four targeted states,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.

Clinton had a “nice lead” in Pennsylvania, said Madonna, until the FBI probe went live two weeks ago. NBC's battleground map has the state leaning Democrat and The New York Times has her a strong favorite. But FiveThirtyEight shows the margin tightening. Recently, Trump’s gained popularity in the suburbs, while Clinton’s target demographics are less than mobilized, Madonna said.  

Democrats in Pennsylvania have focused efforts on the African American population, 50 percent of which comes from Philadelphia. When Obama was a candidate, 92 to 94 percent of the black vote went to the Democrats, but without his name on the ticket, party leaders are afraid that black voters won’t turn out.

Millennials also make up 18 to 19 percent of Pennsylvania’s voters, but they’re the least politically engaged age group. Clinton surrogates have been campaigning at universities around the state because “they’re aware of the lack of enthusiasm,” Madonna said. 

“Trump’s voters are more enthusiastic in our state,” he added.

Counties to watch:
Forty percent of votes in Pennsylvania come from six counties: Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, Philadelphia and Allegheny. The first four are suburbs of Philadelphia populated by primarily middle class, college educated whites. “Many of them will vote either party depending on the cycle, depending on the candidates, depending on the issues,” Madonna said. In 2009, Obama won Bucks by 1 percent; Romney claimed Chester by the same margin.

Utah | Electoral College votes: 6
How it’s looking:
“Utah and Arizona are clearly new battlegrounds, ones that we don’t usually include in that list,” said Larry Sabato, editor-in-chief of the Crystal Ball website, which is run by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. 

Utah tends to vote Republican. In 2012, all six electoral college votes went to Romney. But because of the state’s Mormon faction, this election cycle is proving a different beast.

“Utah I would call a special case,” said Will Jordan, elections editor at YouGov. “The Mormon population were very reluctant to support Trump in the primary, and that’s followed through to the general election.”

Clinton has a single digit possibility of winning Utah’s electoral college votes, according to FiveThirtyEight's forecast, but Trump is finding unlikely competition from independent candidate Evan McMullin, a conservative Mormon.

NBC News moved Utah from tossup to lean Republican in its final battleground map.

Counties to watch:
Summit County is the only one that went blue in 2008. Romney swept Utah in 2012.

Virginia | Electoral College votes: 13
How it’s looking:
“Virginia’s one of the less competitive battlegrounds this year,” Sabato said of the state that NBC News reports "Leans Democrat."

According to FiveThirtyEight’s state predictions, Clinton has a comfortable advantage. Some of her popularity in Old Dominion can be attributed to her running mate, Tim Kaine, who is one of Virginia’s incumbent senators and served as governor from 2006 to 2010. 

Counties to watch:

While northern Virginia is traditionally more liberal than the rest of the state, Prince William County, the second most populous in Virginia, may sway Republican because of its suburban base. Virginia Beach could also prove dicey for Democrats. 

Wisconsin | Electoral College votes: 10 
How it’s looking:
Despite a working class electorate, FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times forecast a Clinton victory, and NBC News has Wisconsin leaning Democratic.

Counties to watch:
Waukesha County, a suburb west of Milwaukee, is very white, and very Republican. As a liberal base, Dane County should help Clinton along, but careful: third party candidates could eat into her lead, according to NBC News. 

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