Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

The Bellwether County

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The outcome of this year’s Presidential Election in Nevada will be very influential when analyzing voting trends in the Silver State. Historically, Nevada has been a fairly safe bet for Republicans – favoring the GOP candidate in every presidential election, with the exception of 1960, from 1948 until 2004.  However, Nevada’s rightward voting trend began to dwindle in the 1900’s and 2000’s.

This year, many political analysts believe that Nevada should be an easy battleground state for Republicans to win. Most base this off of the fact that Nevada’s economy is in disrepair. The state’s unemployment rate is the worst in the nation at is 11.8%. A second factor that should be aiding Republicans is the Mormon vote. Mormons make up 9 percent of Nevada’s population and Mormon voters in the state generally overwhelming support fellow Mormon, Mitt Romney. While this bloc may not be enough to carry the state, their support could be very influential in a close race for electoral votes in the state.

Despite all of the reasons why Republicans should be winning in the Silver State, the polls tell a very different story. Just a single poll all year has found Romney leading Obama in the state. The latest polls have Obama ahead by about 4 points. There is one county in Nevada that will prove to be crucial for Romney come Election Day, Washoe County. Without a win in this county, political analysts believe it will be virtually impossible for Romney to carry the state. Let’s take a closer look at why Washoe County matters…


Washoe County, home to populous Reno, was traditionally an extremely strong Republican base. However, overtime it has become much more of a swing district within the state. In the 2000 Presidential Election, Washoe County was three percentage points more Republican leaning than Nevada as a whole. In 2004, it was one point more Republican and in 2008 Obama carried Washoe County by just over 12 percentage points – matching the statewide vote almost exactly. The similarity of Washoe County voting trends to state wide voting trends has made this a county closely watched by analysts.

The Associated Press chose Washoe County as one of the 106 counties in the country that the election may come down to on November 6. The AP reviewed the vote returns during the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections to identify the counties that have swung between the parties and were most likely to do it again this year.  Washoe County accounts for about 15 – 20 percent of the state’s vote and the AP concurs that if Romney has any chance of winning Nevada, he must win in Washoe County.

The Romney campaign clearly understands the importance of this county as he has spent a great amount of time campaigning here while the Obama campaign has spent more time in Clark County, home to Las Vegas.

Which way will Washoe County swing this year? Check back to Destination 270 tomorrow night, as I will be blogging as the numbers come in.

Happy Election Day Eve!!


One thought on “The Bellwether County

  1. Pingback: How Heller Beat the Odds « Destination 270

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