Which Red States Are Turning Blue In 2016?

by Amée LaTour

It's been anything but a usual election year. For many following politics, the candidacy of Donald Trump and his rise to the Republican presidential nomination came out of left field. The disdain of establishment Republicans has been anything but muted, with prominent lawmakers and former GOP presidents refusing or revoking their endorsements, and typically reliable donors sitting out this election. One might expect a good chunk of mainstream Republican voters to do the same or switch to the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, this time around. Which typically red states are turning blue in 2016?

Not as many as you might think, given Trump's record high unfavorable rating. That could be partly because Clinton has the second-highest unfavorable rating, and partly because, for all the typical GOP voters who may sit out or vote outside the major parties, there are likely plenty who will enter the voting booth for the first time, feeling that the nontraditional Republican candidate "outsider" better represents them than mainstream conservatives. So perhaps it's no surprise there are no typically red states guaranteed to go blue in 2016, although there are definitely some surprising toss-up states this time around.

Three states with strong GOP voting records that are now considered toss-ups for the presidential race are North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia. As The Hill reported in its 2014 rundown of recent state voting records, North Carolina voted for six of the last seven Republican presidential candidates. The exception was Barack Obama in 2008, when he took the state by a mere 0.3 percent. Trump is up 1.4 percent the day before the election.


The situation's a bit different with Georgia and Arizona. These states have also voted for six out of seven of the most recent Republican candidates for president, but by more comfortable margins in the past three elections. Real Clear Politics' polling averages show Trump up by fewer than five points in each of these states. Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush all easily took Arizona, while Trump is up by 4 percent there going into Tuesday, according to Real Clear Politics. Of the three past Republican nominees, only McCain won Georgia by fewer than seven points. Trump is leading Clinton by 4.6 percent in the state.

Clinton's best bet among these mostly reliable Republican-voting states in 2016 is North Carolina. Of course, anything can happen on Tuesday, and it wouldn't be a complete shock if she picked up a couple more supposedly red states.

But we should note that there are blue (or blue-leaning) states that are toss-ups. Maine, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are states where Democratic presidential candidates have recently won, but are hot contests in 2016.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A number of states from both sides of the aisle are leaning more purple in 2016. Though we won't know how many red states go blue, if any, until official results are in, we shouldn't be surprised if it's not many.