Presidential Tracker: "Show Me the Money"

by Katie P. Kelly, Presidential Tracker // Published October 14, 2011

Over the past month, President Barack Obama’s state visits and events have correlated with typical general election campaign strategy –formulated around our winner-take-all rules for allocating electoral votes. Although political calculations of course don’t govern all travel decisions by a president, they are clearly factors (just as evidence shows they were in 2003-2004, when George Bush ran for re-election without a primary opponent).


Under these rules, swing states are often prime for public events, same-party “safe” states are frequented for fundraising and most opposing-party “safe” states are ignored. The White House today continues to show this pattern. For example, since the last Presidential Tracker update on Sept. 14th, President Obama has visited the following nine states, according to the Washington Post. They are:

·         New York (safely Democratic, good for fundraising)

·         Ohio (swing state)

·         Washington (leans Democratic, good for fundraising)

·         California (safely Democratic, good for fundraising)

·         Colorado (swing state)

·         Missouri (leans Republican, but within reach)

·         Texas (safely Republican)

·         Pennsylvania (swing state)

·         Florida (swing state)

These nine states comprise an insightful mixture of “safely” Democratic states, swing states and one traditionally Republican, but very wealthy state. When we look closer at the type of events held in each, the reasons for those visits (and how they fit into the winner-take-all dominated campaign strategy) make a lot more sense.

Based on our analysis, New York, California and Washington are all considered blue states. New York and California are safely Democratic, while Washington State is leaning Democratic. Both New York and Washington saw two campaign fundraising events in the last month. California, on the other hand, had a total of five fundraising events in just two days. 

Swing states top the list as most visited in the past month. Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania each received a public event visit, while fundraisers were the only events in Florida and Missouri. These five swing states will most likely receive more attention as time passes. 

Then there is Texas. In Texas, two public events and two fundraisers were held – all in one day. Although this type of visit could mean that the Obama campaign believes the Latino vote in Texas could turn the state blue , it’s more likely the fact that this big state earns special attention for its wealth and importance for the national economy. 

In all, trips to these nine states over the past month consisted of 22 total events: seven public events and fifteen fundraisers. Clearly, it is still the fundraising time of campaign season, but it’s also a time of increased swing state visits – visits that will only increase in number as time goes on. 

Unfortunately, this special focus on certain states is a result of the current winner-take-all rule in states governing how they allocate electoral votes. New York, holding the number one spot for most events held, experienced its 46th event this month (money and size sure can talk even when your state doesn’t matter in general elections!) Meanwhile, 10 other states have never seen a targeted visit by the President since he took office. The map below shows this disparity among state visits, totaling event visits since January of 2009.