General-Election Campaign Events Are Concentrated on a Dozen or so Closely Divided Battleground States
12 states have received 97% of the general-election campaign events (158 of 163) by the major-party presidential and vice-presidential candidates during the first 9 weeks of the 2020 campaign (August 28 to October 29, 2020).
8 states have received 85% of the events (139 of 163), namely Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Nevada, and Arizona.
All of the 163 events were in just 16 states, meaning that 34 states and the District of Columbia have not received any general-election campaign events at all.
FairVote created the database and this map of campaign activity. Click here to see details of the candidates' visits to various states. The map shows, by state, the number of campaign events starting on August 28, 2020 (the day after the end of the Republican National Convention).
The reason why voters in only a handful of states matter in presidential races is that almost all states award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes inside the state. Because of these state winner-take-all laws, candidates have no reason to pay attention to voters unless they live in a state where the race is within a few percentage points.
The situation was similar in 2016 when two-thirds of the general-election campaign events (273 of 399) were in just 6 states (OH, FL, VA, NC, PA, MI). In 2016, 94% of the events (375 of the 399) were in just 12 states.
And, the situation was similar in 2012. In 2012, two-thirds of the general-election campaign events were in four states (OH, FL, VA, IA). 100% of the 253 events were in just 12 states.
The concentration of the 2020 campaign events in just a few battleground states is nothing new, and was predicted as early as summer 2019.
All the campaign activity has been in states that were rated as either "toss-up" or "leaning" toward one party by the Cook Political scorecard.
The isolated visits to Nebraska and Maine were motivated by the fact that those states award electoral votes by congressional. Although the statewide result is not in doubt, the 2nd congressional district of Nebraska (the Omaha area) and the 2nd congressional of Maine (the northern half of the state) are closely divided.
Concerning Trump's single visit to Virginia, as reported in Politico, was scheduled to reach nearby rural North Carolina counties, and that Virginia is not considered a battleground state by either campaign.
Concerning Indiana, Pence's single campaign event in his home state was apparently motivated by committments to the local state party, and that Indiana is not considered a battleground state by either campaign.
TV Ad Spending Is Similarly Concentrated in a Dozen or So Closely Divided Battleground States
Seven out of eight dollars for TV ads up to mid-October ($884,000,000 of $1,015,000,000) were spent in the same 6 states.The map below shows TV ad spending (in millions) by state, as reported by NPR up to mid-October.
The New York Times has a detailed state-by-state, week-by-week map