Swing state guide: Battleground states become focus in 2020 election

The only way to win the White House is through the Electoral College, a uniquely American institution which gives weight to swing states ahead of the 2020 election.

A swing state is defined as a U.S. state where two major political parties have similar levels of support among voters.

The path to the presidency relies on about a dozen key swing states which are viewed as important in determining the outcome of the election.

Robert Alexander, a political science professor at Ohio Northern University and the author of “Representation and the Electoral College” says the country needs to be paying close attention to these states.

“The true reality is, take a look at where the candidates are spending their time — where they’re spending their time is in swing states,” Alexander said. “If your state or your outcome is in doubt — if there’s uncertainty there — that’s where the candidates are campaigning.”

So, which states do we need to be paying attention to?

Arizona (11 electoral votes)

Arizona has long been considered reliably red and has almost exclusively chosen Republicans in presidential elections. But that could change this year, experts say. Arizona is transforming rapidly and is increasingly becoming known as a key battleground state ahead of the 2020 election.

The prospect of Arizona as a wild card in the upcoming election has brought a great deal of attention to the Grand Canyon State. Experts believe the state has already changed from red to purple — and potentially could swing to blue come Nov. 3.

RELATED: Arizona, long considered a GOP stronghold, could be swing state in 2020 presidential election, experts say

Colorado (9 electoral votes)

Colorado has been considered a swing state for several past presidential elections, but in 2020, it’s increasingly looking like the state will continue on a blue streak exhibited over the last three elections, experts say.

Colorado’s shift from being a heavily red state to a swing state accelerated as the population increased by nearly 90 percent between 1980 and 2015, with much of the population growing in urban areas of the state, according to The Denver Post.

Bob Loevy, a retired political science professor from Colorado College and co-author of “Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State,” believes that there is no question that there has been a shift, but the question is if it will keep going that way.

RELATED: ‘Purple’ Colorado could go blue in 2020 election as younger voters flock to state, experts say

Florida (29 electoral votes)

Since 1964, the candidate who has won Florida has also gone on to win the presidency in (almost) every single election — with the exception of 1992.

“There’s no other state that’s as big as we are, as close in terms of partisanship, as diverse from a racial and ethnic perspective, and an age perspective and a geographical perspective,” said Dr. Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida distinguished university professor emerita.

With a population of 21 million, Florida has the third-largest number of electoral votes and consistently had the lowest average margin of victory for almost three decades, experts say.

RELATED: Florida's diverse and growing population will uphold its crucial swing state status in 2020, experts say

Georgia (16 electoral votes)

The decades-long Democratic hopes of flipping Georgia blue have yet to reach fruition. But unlike previous years, recent polling and candidate actions suggest the state is in play this election cycle. And it’s not just the White House that’s up for grabs, with two U.S. Senate seats open this November. 

Experts say the southern state, in a region typically dominated by conservative politics, is growing and its demographics are shifting, particularly in urbanized areas. Republican strongholds remain in rural Georgia.

“We get people moving here from all over the country, especially the Northeast. We are also the No. 1 place for film production, bringing many folks from the film industry to Georgia,” said Lori Geary, a political analyst who hosts FOX 5 Atlanta’s weekly public affairs show, "The Georgia Gang."

RELATED: Georgia is in play in the 2020 election, and it's not just the White House up for grabs

Michigan (16 electoral votes)

Four years ago, President Donald Trump did the unthinkable: He cracked the foundation of Michigan’s “blue wall.”

Trump accomplished this in a state that had voted Democratic in six consecutive presidential elections from 1992 through 2012. Now, predicting where the pendulum will swing in 2020 is “the $64,000 question,” says David Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

“It’s going to be close,” Dulio said.

RELATED: Michigan’s ‘tale of two electorates’: Experts say it’s a close, competitive race between Biden and Trump

Minnesota (10 electoral votes)

Minnesota hasn’t gone red since it elected Richard Nixon in 1972 and a Republican hasn’t won a single statewide election since 2006, yet political experts say the North Star State’s blue streak could be coming to an end.

Minnesotans have voted blue for the past 11 presidential elections, and polls currently favor Joe Biden by more than nine points as of Oct. 6, but David Schultz, a professor of political science at Hamline University in Saint Paul, says there are various characteristics that could make a state like Minnesota swing

RELATED: Minnesota, a blue state for decades, could still be a battleground in 2020 election

North Carolina (15 electoral votes)

North Carolina, a historically Republican state, is now considered a political battleground as unaffiliated voters have become the fastest-growing group among its booming population — portending an unpredictable 2020 presidential election, according to experts.

“Like many other Southern states, North Carolina voted almost exclusively Democratic from 1876 through 1964 and almost exclusively Republican beginning in 1968,” according to 270towin. “The initial shift was largely in response to white conservative voter uneasiness with the civil rights legislation passed in the mid-1960s, which was effectively exploited by the Republicans ‘southern strategy.’”

And while North Carolina has not swung in the past few elections, experts believe the 2020 race is going to be very tight.

RELATED: ‘A coin toss’ in NC: Surge in unaffiliated voters makes state a battleground in 2020 election

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)

President Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin in 2016. It’s considered a complicated state to categorize due to its historical swing status, and “right now, Pennsylvania looks like the single most important state of the 2020 election,” polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight said.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast, Pennsylvania has a 31 percent chance of being the tipping-point state, which is what happens when you give one of the most evenly divided states in the union 20 electoral votes.

Pennsylvania’s swing-state status, along with its ability to award 20 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win the presidency has brought the state a great deal attention during 2020’s election cycle.

RELATED: ‘Pennsylvania is a genuine swing state’: Keystone State could decide 2020 presidential election, experts say

Texas (38 electoral votes)

Texas has long been considered undeniably red and almost exclusively voted Republican in decades of past presidential elections.

But that could potentially change this year, experts say.

The Lone Star State is seeing rapid transformation, and it is increasingly becoming known as a highly contested potential battleground state ahead of the 2020 election.

“I think Texans are very aware that they’re in the spotlight,” James Henson, a political science professor at the University of Texas, said. “It’s not entirely new, but it’s increased in the last couple of elections as Texas becomes more competitive.”

RELATED: 2020 Election: Texas hasn’t voted Democrat since 1976, but the state is in play this year, experts say

Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)

Historically, Democratic presidential candidates won Wisconsin’s popular vote in seven straight elections, from 1988-2012.

But during the Democrats’ 24-year hold on Wisconsin, Republican gubernatorial candidates won the governorship more often than their counterparts.

Dr. Mordecai Lee, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that is due to the governors’ races being held during midterm elections. Lee, a Democrat, served in Wisconsin’s State Assembly for three terms and in the state Senate for two terms from 1976 until he voluntarily left politics in 1990.

Lee said the gubernatorial outcomes further demonstrate Wisconsin’s nature as a swing state. Both major parties always have a chance at winning.

RELATED: Despite long stretch of Democratic victories, Wisconsin has been a battleground for decades