purple state
n. An American state in which Democrats and Republicans have roughly equal support.
John Kerry can aim for across-the-board excitement in his choice of a running mate, something to put turbochargers under the hood of his creaky old European sedan. Or he can make a targeted selection to enhance his chances in a large 'purple state,' which is the new phrase for the 17 battleground states, neither red nor blue, you see, but a blend.
—John Brummett, “Kerry should tap either Hillary or Ed Rendell,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 11, 2004
Ohio : It's the new Florida — a deep purple state whose 20 electoral votes will determine the White House."
—“Conventional Wisdom,” Newsweek, March 15, 2004
2002 (earliest)
I even noted, by the way, we do believe this ought to appeal both to Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives. You notice we have a new color scheme here. We have green states and white states. But I would point out that the green states are composed of both red states and blue states.


Now, that may be a color combination that you don't get from the spectrum. I guess — what? — red and blue will give you purple states.
—Barney Frank, “Bipartisan group of representatives holds news conference on medicinal marijuana,” Federal Document Clearing House Political Transcripts, July 24, 2002
Why purple? On U.S. election night maps, Republican states are traditionally shown in red and Democratic states are shown in blue, so pundits of both political stripes now routinely talk about red states (2001) and blue states (2001). States that give both parties roughly equal electoral support — also called battleground states or swing states — are a blend of blue and red, hence they're purple states. Note that a recent Gallup poll defined a purple state as one where the margin of victory for either candidate in the 2000 U.S. presidential election was five percentage points or less.
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