Alaska a Presidential Swing State?

There has been a lot of buzz about the changing American political landscape. There are several articles about Texas becoming a swing state. An analysis by The Houston Chronicle explains if demographic trends continue (read: Latino immigration), Texas will be competitive in 2020 and a swing state by 2024. Robert Schlesinger of U.S. News and World Report writes that Arizona and Georgia are soon to follow.

Recently in the New York Times, Nate Silver writes Alaska could be competitive as early as 2020. He explains why:

1. Democrats are making gains in Alaska.

Silver points to recent presidential elections to illustrate how political tides are changing:

The state where Barack Obama most improved his performance from 2008 was Alaska. He lost it by "only" 14 percentage points this year, considerably less than his 22-point margin of defeat in 2008. Part of the reason is that the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, was on the Republican ticket in 2008 but was not this year. That probably doesn't explain all of the shift, however. Consider that in 2000 -- also without Ms. Palin on the ballot -- the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, lost Alaska by 31 points.

So, here's the breakdown ....

  • 2000: Gore lost by 31 points.
  • 2004: Kerry lost by 25 points.
  • 2008: Obama lost by 22 points.
  • 2012: Obama lost by 14 points.
On its face, it appears Alaska is quickly becoming a blue state. Following this trajectory, Alaska should be voting Democratic in about 8-12 years. As Silver explains, the variation between 2008 and 2012 is largely due to Sarah Palin's presence on the ticket in '08.

He rightly points out Obama's performance in 2012 was a remarkable improvement over Gore in 2000 -- a 17-point gain in just 12 years. After two terms of G.W. and an economic downturn, it's no surprise Obama outperformed recent Democrats.

However, you need to look farther back than ten years. If anything, Gore in 2000 was an outlier. In 1988 for example ...