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OPINION

Swing States Aren't the End of the Republican Roadmap to Victory

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Jaime Valdez/Pamplin Media Group via AP, Pool

Political predictors across the nation look to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona to divine the future of the Republican Party. Instead, they should be looking to New York and the Pacific Northwest. Many look to swing states as an indicator for the size of the predicted “red wave,” a massive midterm victory for Republican candidates across the country. However, looking only to swing states could be massively underselling election day potential for the GOP.

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While purple states are important indicators for Republican pathways to victory, they likely are not the true high watermark of the GOP's potential. Instead, statewide outcomes in New York, Oregon, and Washington state will show a clearer picture of backlash against the Biden administration and failed democrat policy, as well as potential for Republican in-roads in blue states ahead of 2024.

While polling numbers do not always represent election day results, several races in states considered reliably blue have caught national attention. In October polls for the New York State Governor’s race between Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin, almost all indicate that Zeldin is anywhere from 11 points off to a statistical dead heat away from victory. These numbers would be unthinkable in 2018, where Republican Marc Molin finished over 23 percent behind former Governor Andrew Cuomo.

A similarly shocking swing has occurred in the Oregon race for governor, where Republican Christine Drazan is poised to become the state’s first republican governor in over 40 years. October polls overwhelmingly favor Drazen over Democrat Tina Kotek, although the contest remains close. Again, election predictors from 2018 would have scoffed at Oregon as a potential pick-up when Republicans lost to Governor Kate Brown by almost 7 points.

This trend continues in the Washington state race for Senate, where Republican Tiffany Smiley looks to be trailing incumbent Senator Patty Murray by single digits in most polls. In Murray’s last bid for senate, she beat her Republican opponent by almost 20 points. Her sharply narrowing projected margin is particularly shocking in a state famous for featuring a short-lived but well documented communist autonomous zone just two years ago. 

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Strategists and pundits look to current swing state performance this year as a road map to clinching victory in 2024. However, if Republican candidates over-perform on election day in states considered reliably blue, this could indicate new targets and new swing states. 

Backlash against Biden and failed Democratic policies in blue states have contributed to the upswing for Republicans. A recent Reuters poll shows Biden’s approval rating at just 39 percent, which certainly contributes to narrowing poll margins for Democrat candidates across the country. Several October polls including Quinnipiac Poll and Harvard Harris have indicated that inflation and crime are the two biggest issues influencing likely voters this year, and those voters view republicans as better equipped to handle these issues. 

If Democrat candidates continue with their current strategy, the Republican surge in blue states could continue to increase before election day. In a recent appearance on MSNBC, Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) said of republicans, “They have this conspiracy going all across America trying to convince people that in Democratic states that they’re not as safe.”

Current polling indicates that voters do not think crime is a republican conspiracy. The Biden Administration’s approval ratings continue to tank and democrat candidates across the nation continue to double down on current talking points. Republicans should take this as a cue to press the advantage, building on overperformance in democratic stronghold states ahead of 2024.

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The swing states of today will not all be the swing states of tomorrow. The path to prolonged national electoral success for either party relies on keeping reliable areas in their column and chipping away at the other side’s margins in swing areas.

If Republican candidates over-perform in states the party had previously written off, it should not be viewed as a flash in the pan caused by a uniquely disliked Administration. Instead, the GOP should seize the current advantage and invest more heavily in these states to build on a growing base of support. It is possible that within the next decade New York, Oregon, and Washington could be confidently added to the swing column.

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