During presidential election years, I get asked by the media quite a bit about Ohio's role as a battleground or swing state. Besides the fact that Ohio is known as the "Mother of Presidents" with a direct connection to 8, in the modern era Ohio maintains its strategic importance to fashioning an electoral vote majority. If it wasn't important, presidential contenders and their campaign surrogates wouldn't visit Ohio as much as they do.
This concept of presidential travel and the electoral map motivated me to actually look at the data. What I present below is just a first swipe--I haven't drilled down into the numbers much. And, this is the beginning of what I hope will be a long-term project tracking the travel destinations of presidents, presidential candidates, and their surrogates.
President Obama's First Term Travel to 13 Swing States I have identified for 2012 election (as of July 13, 2012):*
New Hampshire: 6/2
New Mexico: 3/1
North Carolina: 10/3
*First number is total separate trips to state; second number is separate trips to state in 2012 so far.
Although Virginia is the most visited battleground state by President Obama, many of those visits were in conjunction with his role as Commander-in-Chief and other official duties (e.g. visits to the Pentagon, CIA, etc.). Also, given Virginia's proximity to the White House and ease of travel to get there, it is unsurprising that it ranks first.
Ohio, it should surprise no one, ranks second, with Pennsylvania close behind. Obama has made 22 total visits to the Buckeye Battleground and 6 in 2012 alone with another one scheduled for this coming Monday in Cincinnati.
Another question intrigued me: how does Obama's travel to Ohio compare to other recent presidents in their first term? I did a quick check and here's what I came up with:
GHW Bush: 18
GW Bush: 30
It seems that even as Ohio's electoral vote totals have declined over time, Ohio is becoming increasingly popular with sitting first-term presidents.
More to come on this topic as the campaign season rages on.