Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Holding Democratic 'blue wall' was crucial for Obama victory

Obama won on American's "aspirations"

    Just Watched

    Obama won on American's "aspirations"

Obama won on American's "aspirations" 02:04

Story highlights

  • 'Blue wall' states traditionally go Democratic in presidential elections
  • Those states accounted for 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House
  • Republican 'red wall,' on the other hand, only makes up 177 electoral votes, at most

With Florida finally called and the 2012 presidential election falling into the rear view mirror, here's a look at another reason why President Barack Obama won re-election: The Democrats held their "blue wall" -- the cluster of eastern, Midwest and western states that have traditionally gone Democratic and were crucial to his victory.

"Democrats held the entire 'blue wall'. They have now won 18 states in at least six consecutive elections, the most states they have won that often ever, since the formation of the modern party system in 1828," says CNN Senior Political Analyst and National Journal Editorial Director Ron Brownstein.

What states make up this so-called "blue wall"?

When history speaks: Lincoln's three lessons for an Obama second term

Start in the Mid-Atlantic and head north into New England: Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine. The only state not included in this list is New Hampshire, a perennial swing state.

The 'Blue Wall'

Add three West Coast states (California, Oregon, and Washington State) and Hawaii, and the reliably blue Midwestern states (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin).

Put all those states together and add the District of Columbia, and you total 242 electoral votes. That's a nice starting point for any Democratic nominee, considering that 270 is the magic number needed to win the White House.

CNN Electoral College map: You do the math

Many of the October public opinion polls indicated the president with the slight edge in the eight swing states (according to CNN's electoral map). That may explain why Romney became the latest GOP presidential nominee to try to make a last-minute bid to breach the "blue wall," with moves in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan. But once again, it didn't work.

As the nation's demographics continue to shift, New Mexico and even Nevada may eventually be added to the "blue wall," making the GOP's path to the presidency increasingly difficult.

"Until Republicans can crack the 'blue wall,' Democrats start with a base of 242 Electoral College votes, which means a GOP nominee must thread the needle, or practically run the table, to get to 270," adds Brownstein.

Obama: I'm open to compromise

    Just Watched

    Obama: I'm open to compromise

Obama: I'm open to compromise 00:59
Obama's second term agenda

    Just Watched

    Obama's second term agenda

Obama's second term agenda 03:22
2016 presidential name-dropping begins

    Just Watched

    2016 presidential name-dropping begins

2016 presidential name-dropping begins 02:19

The Republicans, on the other hand, have their "red wall" -- the large southern, Plains and Mountain states that cover a lot of geography but not as many electoral votes, like Utah, Idaho, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina and others. But together, the "red wall" only nets Republicans 177 electoral votes at most.

The big question confronting Republicans: "how to crack that wall"?

With director Steven Spielberg's new film "Lincoln" opening to critical praise, CNN Polling Director Keating Holland sees a comparison of today's "blue wall" to the coalition of states that put Republican Abraham Lincoln in the White House in 1860.

Avlon: Election a call for purple politics

"There are some differences: Washington and Hawaii weren't in the Union at the time and Delaware and Maryland were slave-holding states. Lincoln also added New Hampshire, Iowa and Indiana to the list of "blue wall" states in order to win the White House," says Holland.

"The GOP was the 'big government' party back then, willing to use the government's power not just to resolve the slavery issue, but also for big government programs like the Transcontinental Railroad, the land-grant college program, and the Homestead Act -- all projects which a lot of Democrats opposed at the time as going beyond the bounds of the government's authority. The parties have changed sides, but it looks like the underlying attitudes in those states that put them in the 'blue wall' category may be similar to what they were in Lincoln's time," adds Holland.

      Election 2012

    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden after his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage after his victory speech at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
    • Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
    • US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd of supporters on stage on election night November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. President Barack Obama swept to re-election Tuesday, forging history again by transcending a slow economic recovery and the high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

      The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
    • Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.