DemDaily: Red State, Blue State

February 27, 2023

In a random tirade, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called for a “national divorce” last week, arguing that Republican and Democratic states needed to separate.

Although controversial outbursts from the far-right conservative are not uncommon, the reference to the symbolic colors elicits a political civics lesson.

Red State, Blue State
In presidential politics "Red State" means Republican and "Blue State" Democrat.

Although the colors may be an automatic association for today's voters, the symbolism for each party is still relatively new.

The acceptance of red state and blue state as standard terminology is credited to the late Meet the Press host and journalist Tim Russert during his coverage of the 2000 presidential election.

His color scheme for mapping voter preferences by state (blue states for Al Gore and red states for George W. Bush) was adopted, for the first time, by all major broadcast television networks and media on election night. The colors have subsequently expanded to more broadly represent "liberal" and "conservative.

In contrast, the political party's animal symbols have been around since the 19th century. The Democratic donkey can be traced to the 1828 presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson when opponents called him a jackass. He embraced the image and included it in his campaign posters. In the 1870s, Thomas Nast -- considered the father of the modern political cartoon -- helped popularize the donkey as a symbol for the entire Democratic Party.

35 out of 50 states have voted for the same party in every presidential election since the red/blue terminology was popularized in 2000.

Blue States
Based on the 2020 presidential vote, 25 states and the District of Columbia are blue.

Eighteen states and D.C. have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election from 1992 to 2020, with the exception of 2016.

Those "Blue wall" states include California, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Other blue states include Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Virginia.

Red States
Republican voting presidential states number 25, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The origins of the Republican elephant can be first traced can be traced to at least one Civil War-era political cartoon and newspaper illustration (when “seeing the elephant” was an expression used by soldiers to mean experiencing combat). The pachyderm did not take hold as a GOP symbol until political cartoonist Thomas Nast used it in an 1874 Harper’s Weekly cartoon.

Purple States
"Purple state" became a part of the political lexicon after the 2004 election to describe "battleground" or "swing states" which have historically narrowly voted red or blue in past presidential contests.

By those terms, the 2024 Battleground States include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and possibly Texas.

The outcome, however, is likely to hinge on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia -- all critical to reaching the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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