The 10 Most Important States in the 2012 Presidential Election

by Todd Shriber

With another Republican candidate debate and President Barack Obama’s long-anticipated jobs speech this week, it’s fair to say that we’re already in the throes of election season. Sure, Election Day 2012 is still 14 months away, but in the world of politics, it’s never too early to start pandering for votes.

Along those lines, Trader Daily decided to take a look at the 10 most important states in the 2012 election, either to Obama’s re-election hopes or the designs any Republican challenger has on defeating the incumbent. California, Illinois, New York and Texas were not included on this list because, based on recent trends, it is highly unlikely that any of these states flip sides.

States appear in order of electoral votes from least to most (electoral votes in parentheses).

10) New Hampshire (4)

The only state in New England that can be viewed as a toss-up, New Hampshire has been identified as critical to the hopes of both parties in 2012, according to The Wall Street Journal.

9) Nevada (6)

Nevada is an interesting case not only because it is the epitome of a tossup state, but also because it was worth five votes in the electoral college in 2008, but in 2012 it will be worth six. President Obama won Nevada in 2008, but Nevada is not loyal. In the three elections from 1980 to 1988, Nevada went Republican. Then Bill Clinton won it in 1992 and 1996. George W. Bush won it twice before Obama cleared it in 2008.

8) Colorado (9)

Once reliably red, demographic changes have altered Colorado’s political hue. And while nine electoral votes won’t have anyone confusing Colorado with California or Texas, in a close race, Colorado will matter, as The Wall Street Journal noted.

7) Wisconsin (10)

Wisconsin has been a blue state in presidential races for a while now. But in 2010, the state elected a Republican governor and senator, so the Democrats could face a dog fight here.

6) Indiana (11)

Obama pulled a big surprise here in 2008. Red Mass Group says the Republicans must win Indiana back in 2012 “in order to remain competitive and relevant.”

5) Virginia (13)

See above. That comment from Red Mass was made in reference to several states, including Virginia. Virginia was once an easy win for Republicans, but Obama dispelled that notion. A potentially competitive Senate race shines the spotlight even brighter on Virginia in 2012.

4) North Carolina (15)

Virginia’s neighbor to the south was also another former easy win for the GOP that went Democrat in 2008. Fifteen electoral votes is enough to get both parties spending plenty of money in the Tar Heel state.

3) Ohio (20)

Ohio elected a Republican governor and senator in 2010, but that hasn’t changed a very weak jobs picture. The big question is which party does Ohio blame its economic woes on, because the party that escapes Ohio’s wrath probably carries this critical state.

2) Pennsylvania (21)

Pennsylvania hasn’t gone Republican in a presidential race since 1998, but it usually appears competitive enough to get both parties spending money there. Losing Pennsylvania would arguably cripple Obama’s re-election hopes.

1) Florida (29)

It’s no surprise that at least one Florida politician acknowledges the fact that Florida is the most important state in presidential politics, according to Politico. President Obama won here in 2008, but Florida has had a tendency to bounce back and forth. The last time a candidate lost Florida and won the election? Bill Clinton in 1992.

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