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How Will Upper Midwestern Independents Vote In 2008?

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With the prospects of a potential high profile Independent presidential candidacy by New York Mayor (and billionaire) Michael Bloomberg on the horizon, gaining the votes of political independents becomes even a higher prize for the establishment parties in 2008. Independents comprise approximately 25 percent of the electorate in Minnesota and 30 percent in Iowa and Wisconsin.

The eventual Republican nominee will seek to win back independent voters who helped the Democratic Party take back the U.S. House and Senate in the mini-landslide elections last year. The Democratic candidate will assuredly need to strike a tone of moderation in his or her political ideology, or risk losing independents to an independent such as Bloomberg.

Moderate Republicans might be attracted to a Bloomberg campaign (himself most recently a member of the GOP, but also once a Democrat)—especially so if maverick Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel joins the ticket (unlike Senator John McCain, to whom the media inappropriately has assigned such a label, Hagel is a true maverick—parting company with his party's leadership on Iraq, long before it was fashionable to do so).

So where will the independent vote fall in the Upper Midwest in 2008?

In Iowa, independents currently give President Bush a much lower approval rating, at 23 percent, than his statewide average of 34 percent (SurveyUSA, June 2007). Independents basically rate the job performance of their Senators—Republican Charles Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin—in line with the statewide average. Independents overall give the Republican Grassley higher marks (62 percent) over Harkin (51 percent).

In Minnesota, while independents also are slightly less approving of Bush's performance (26 percent) compared to the statewide average (29 percent), they are more supportive of Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty (57 percent) compared to the state overall (50 percent). Independents rate DFL Senator Amy Klobuchar's job performance higher than that of Republican Norm Coleman (57 to 48 percent).

Independents in Wisconsin, however, seem to have a somewhat harsher view of their statewide Democratic leaders, and a slightly more favorable view of President Bush than their newly re-elected Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. Thirty-eight percent of independent Wisconsinites approve of Bush's job performance (in line with the 37 percent statewide average) while 37 percent approve of Doyle's job performance (four points less than his statewide 41 percent approval rating).

Wisconsin independents also give the two Democratic Senators Herb Kohl (53 percent) and Russ Feingold (48 percent) lower job approval ratings than their statewide average (60 percent and 53 percent respectively).

The Democrats therefore do not have anything close to a lock on the independent vote in 2008 in the Upper Midwest, and a viable, politcally moderate third party candidacy like that of Bloomberg might very well prove an insurmountable hurdle for them to overcome.

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Remains of the Data

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

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.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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