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Battleground economies suffer disproportionately


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by Tom Schaller

Fri Oct 29th, 2004 at 13:35:57 GMT


Why are polls showing Kerry doing better in battleground states than the rest of the country? The answer may be found in this fact: The economies in the states that will decide who wins on Tuesday are doing worse than the rest of the country.


Let's take a look at the 12 remaining battleground states: For fun, and as a sign of positive thinking, I've added Arkansas to Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.


Now, consider statewide performance relative to national trends on three economic measures:



1. Statewide job growth rate between January 2001 and June 2004, which declined nationally by 0.8 percent (National Journal, July 25, 2004 special issue).


2. Statewide median household income change between January 2001 and June 2004, which grew nationally at a rate of +11.0, a rate which essentially keeps pace with inflation (same source).


3. Statewide increase in percentage of people without health insurance between 1999-2000 two-year average and 2002-2003 two-year average, which increased nationally by 1.0 percent, from 14.0 percent to 15.4 percent between 99-00 and 02-03. (U.S. Census Bureau, compiled by Senate Joint Economic Committee).


What do we find?


1. On statewide job growth rates, only Iowa (at -0.4, still negative, but not as bad at -0.8) has done better than the national average. The other 11 states did worse.


2. On statewide income change, only New Mexico (16.1 income growth between 1/01 and 6/04) has done better than the national average. The other 11 states did worse.


3. And, on statewide share of persons without health insurance, only three states - Florida (-0.2) Minnesota (+0.5), and New Mexico (-2.8) - have done better than the national average. The other nine states did worse.


Taken together, that means that only one of the 12 battleground states (NM) has done better than the national average on two of these three measures, while three others (IA, FL, MN) have done better than the national average on one of the three. The remaining eight of the 12 states did worse on all three.


Obviously, these trends are interrelated: People who lose jobs see their household incomes drop and their insurance disappear. But the point is, whether one thinks the economy is improving or not, and whether one believes this president (or presidents generally) deserve credit or blame for the economy, because these figures are relative - they're benchmarked against the national averages -- the fact is that the battleground states have struggled disproportionately to the rest of the nation.


Iraq and the war on terror may be swamping economics in voters' calculus. But the president had better hope that economics does not serve as a tiebreaker for swing voters in swing states.



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