But, there are states with high percentages of independent-type voters that are not toss-up states. Colorado has the second necessary condition to be a toss-up, and that is close partisan balance; i.e., the base vote of each party is relatively close in size (see Silver’s report for background on his logarithmic technique).
Mary Winter for the Columbia Journalism Review reported on the topic:
“Floyd Ciruli, a longtime Denver political commentator and pollster, pointed to another important voting bloc he sees as key to the election: independents. ‘Thirty percent of voters here are not attached to either party,’ he said, which means they will be micro-targeted via social media and advertising by both major parties. (Though when discussing self-declared independents, it’s useful to remember that most of them have some attachment to one party or the other.)
Independent voters, Ciruli said, ‘get most of their cues from the media. They are ad-oriented, they make decisions late, they have less commitment, and they can change their minds.’ They need to be constantly persuaded, and ‘typically, you do that by putting a headline in front of them that says the other person is extreme or terrible or corrupt.’” (Columbia Journalism Review, May 22, 2012)Many western states have a lot of swing voters, but Colorado and New Mexico are considered toss-ups due to also being closely balanced in partisanship. Arizona and Montana, which also have a lot of independents, lean toward the GOP in their partisan balance, and Oregon and Washington lean toward the Democrats.
Silver’s rating of the fifty states is shown in the table below. Colorado is in the elite group with Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and New Mexico as the most volatile (elastic) and most closely balanced.
States also considered battlegrounds are in the center column, but tend to have fewer swing voters, such as Nevada, Florida and Ohio. Finally, there are states with very few swing voters, but the base groups are closely matched, such as North Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina will be all about turnout versus Colorado, where working the base is only a part of the story. Attracting the independent or swing voter will be the key.
New York Times blog – FiveThirtyEight: Swing voters and elastic states
Columbia Journalism Review: What’s the swingiest state of them all?