Presidential Campaign Down to Six States
The Electoral College is once again having the opposite effect of what its defenders claim.
After two elections in recent memory in which the candidate who got the most votes for President lost the election, we’ve quite reasonably had more scrutiny of the Electoral College system. The main argument used by defenders is that it forces candidates who want to lead the country to pay attention to voters in smaller states and rural areas, not just those who live in the big cities. Once again, though, the reality is quite different.
NPR‘s Domenico Montanaro (“Biden Is Outspending Trump On TV, And Just 6 States Are The Focus Of The Campaign“):
Where the major party presidential campaigns are spending their money on TV advertising can tell you a lot about where they’re focusing their efforts.
And based on that, it’s pretty clear that the race between President Trump and Joe Biden is coming down to just six swing states — Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona. They are getting the lion’s share of the TV advertising money from the campaigns and outside groups supporting them.
More than $700 million has been spent on TV ad bookings so far in 14 key states, with almost 85% of that money going to the big six, according to data collected by ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics through Friday, and analyzed by NPR.
And Democrats have keyed in even more closely on the six states: The Biden campaign and supporting groups have spent almost 90% of their money there, while Trump and Republican organizations have spent 78 cents of every dollar across the six.
For the most part, then, rural voters in 46 states are being flat ignored. While they get outsized representation because of how Electors are allocated, the winner-take-all nature of the system means we already know who wins there and they’re essentially a non-factor in the campaign.
Indeed, in terms of television spending on commercials, nearly every state is already taken for granted:
Biden and allies: $83.5 million
Trump and allies: $82.3 million
Biden and allies: $74.1 million
Trump and allies: $50 million
Trump and allies: $49 million
Biden and allies: $37.1 million
Biden and allies: $55.6 million
Trump and allies: $21.7 million
Biden and allies: $44.4 million
Trump and allies: $31.8 million
Biden and allies: $43.7 million
Trump and allies: $26.3 million
Trump and allies: $22.3 million
Biden and allies: $6.8 million
Trump and allies: $16.9 million
Biden and allies: $8.9 million
Trump and allies: $12.8 million
Biden and allies: $3.9 million
Trump and allies: $7.8 million
Biden and allies: $7.2 million
Trump and allies: $9.7 million
Biden and allies: $2.3 million
Trump and allies: $6.1 million
Biden and allies: $3.4 million
Biden and allies: $6.7 million
Trump and America First: $156,000
Biden and allies: $1.5 million
Trump and America First: $38,000
Again, only six states are getting significant attention from both camps. Only eight other states are getting any attention at all from at least one side.
If we had a system where every individual vote counted, we would see something very different. Both sides would be spending a ton of money in California and New York, for instance, because there are so many voters there. But, because we’re all but certain those states will go to the Democrat in 2024 and 2028, much less six weeks from now, they’re irrelevant.
It’s probably true that Iowa would get less attention under that system. After all, there are probably more people stuck in traffic in Los Angeles than live in the Hawkeye State. But, as we can see from the ad buys, they’re not getting all that much attention now.