How Many States Are Swing States? The 2016 Election Is Busy Drawing Its Battle Lines

The term "swing state" is thrown around in discussion of American politics with some frequency. It's a pretty simple concept to understand, but not everybody knows the importance a swing state plays in an election. Sometimes swing states are called purple states — red and blue, get it — but the meaning is the same. That also goes for battleground states. So exactly how many states are swing states, and what is a swing state anyway?

A swing state is a U.S. state where both major political parties — Republican and Democrat — have near proportional support from voters. In such cases, no candidate or party has dominant backing in securing that state's electoral college votes. Essentially, a swing state is very dependent on who shows up to vote. The more delegates a swing state carries, the more crucial it is in an election because of the unpredictability factor in changing a race.

The noted swing states in the United States this election cycle are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada. That makes 11, and these states have a tendency in the majority of recent elections to vote in either direction, conservative or liberal.

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Thus far, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio have voted. As far as Republicans go, Ted Cruz won Iowa (eight delegates to Trump's seven and John Kasich's single delegate); Donald Trump won New Hampshire (Trump earned 11 delegates to Cruz's four and Kasich's three); Trump took Nevada (Trump has 14, Cruz has six, and Kasich has one); Cruz secured Colorado (no hard results were reported);Trump dominated Virginia (17 delegates to Cruz's eight and Kasich's five), Florida (Trump has 99 delegates in a winner-take-all), and North Carolina (Trump has 29, Cruz has 27, and Kasich has nine); and Kasich won his home state of Ohio (securing 66 delegates in a winner-take-all).

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders nearly tied Iowa (with a slight lead in Clinton's favor, and 23 to Sanders' 21 delegates); Sanders won New Hampshire (15 delegates versus Clinton's nine); Clinton won Nevada (20-15); Sanders took Colorado (38-28); and Clinton won Virginia (62-33), North Carolina (59-45), Florida (133-65), and Ohio (79-62). Do these states necessarily determine the direction of the presidential race? At the primary stage, not quite, since population and delegate count still reign supreme.

That said, it is important to keep watch because although these races are crucial to the winning in the primaries, they're especially important in the general election.