DemDaily: Red State, Blue State

January 31, 2024

As we kickoff the presidential year, the national electoral map is a literal reflection of the striking political polarization between "red" and "blue" states -- prompting a civics lesson on the symbolic colors.

Red State, Blue State
In United States politics "Red State" denotes 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 widespread 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 European countries the colors are the inverse, with red representing the Socialist Party and blue representing the Conservatives -- as blue is associated with royalty.

In contrast to our contemporary partisan color scheme, the political parties' animal symbols have been in use since the 19th century. The Democratic donkey can be traced to the 1828 presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson when opponents called him a jackass in reference to his stubbornness. 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 of the 50 states have voted for the same party in every presidential election since the red/blue terminology was popularized in 2000.

Blue States
In the 2020 presidential, 25 states and the District of Columbia voted blue, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Red States
Republican voting presidential states also 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 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 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 Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia.

The outcome of the battle for the White House, however, will hinge on the Top Swing States states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- all critical to reaching the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.

Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll released today showed that President Joe Biden is trailing former President Donald Trump 42% to 48% in a head-to-head match-up.across all seven swing states. However, 53% of the voters said they would be unwilling to vote for Trump if he is convicted of a crime (MOE: +/-1%).

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: 270toWin, Wikipedia, Bloomberg

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