Though defenders of the Electoral College often say that the institution is necessary to protect the interest of small states, in fact, the opposite is true. A winning strategy for presidential candidates requires them to ignore small states and spend all their time and money on the few persuadable voters in large swing states.
In 2016, 99% of campaign spending took place in only fourteen states, with half of that going to just four large states—Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The rest of the United States was ignored. And 2020 is shaping up to be even worse. A pro-Trump Super PAC, America First Action, has stated that that just 13 states matter in the next election and plans to spend $250 million in just 6 large states—Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The result of the election may be dependent on an even smaller pool of voters: swing voters in Florida.
In Florida, for example, the starting Trumpworld assumption is that 10.5 million votes could be cast, which would represent record turnout in a fast-growing state. To be sure of a win, the president would need around 5.2 million to 5.3 million votes. At least 4.3 million Floridians, according to the campaign models, are already assured to come out for the president. The goal from there is straightforward: Find the 972,000-odd voters who would get the president to the win number.
The president isn’t wrong to commit to this strategy. The eventual Democratic candidate will certainly focus all of his or her energy, money, and time on these same few voters, taking the rest of the country for granted. It is the system that forces candidates to spend all their time and money in large swing states.