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Does Supreme Court Abortion Decision Signify Shift in Attitudes?

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In a 5-4 decision reached last week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a federal ban on the medical procedure known as 'partial birth abortion.' The procedure was a rallying cry for right-to-life advocates, although even some abortion rights supporters were in favor of the ban.

But this Supreme Court ruling should not be viewed as a turn in the tide of American's views towards the legality of abortion in general—at least not in the Upper Midwest. The majority of Iowans (55 percent), Minnesotans (54 percent) and Wisconsinites (56 percent) all identify themselves as "pro choice" (SurveyUSA, April 2007). Even residents in a red state like South Dakota (52 percent) are more likely to identify themselves as 'pro choice' than 'pro life' (SurveyUSA, November 2006).

Although the Supreme Court decision was a high profile news story, abortion is generally not considered one of the most important problems in the Upper Midwest. For example, in an October 2006 WPR / St. Norbert College poll only 1 percent of Wisconsinites viewed abortion as the nation's most important problem—behind 13 other issues.

However, when major changes in abortion policy come to the forefront—as it did in South Dakota in 2006 when state legislators and Governor Mike Rounds passed a complete ban (to be rejected last November by South Dakota voters)—it can become a major motivating factor behind the vote choice of the electorate. Abortion was viewed as the #1 determining factor (19 percent) for voters deciding how to vote in the 2006 governor's race, according to a June 2006 KELO-TV / Argus Leader poll.

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Remains of the Data

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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