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SD 2008 Election Forecast: Will Momentum Towards the Democrats Continue?

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South Dakota, one of the most reliably Republican states in the Midwest, will be an interesting state to watch in 2008. First, the state will have a high-profile Senate race, whether or not the state's senior Senator, Democrat Tim Johnson, decides to run for a third term. Johnson is recovering from a brain hemorrhage last December, though his former colleague Tom Daschle stated earlier this summer that Johnson will seek re-election.

Last election, however, South Dakota voters seemed to move a bit closer to the Democratic side of the political spectrum—as did most states across the U.S. in Election 2006. The state's at-large Representative to Congress, rising Democratic star Stephanie Herseth, won the third largest victory for a Democrat in a South Dakota U.S. House race in five decades (winning by 40 points).

But the biggest news for the Democrats came in the state Senate. From 2000 to 2004, Democrats lost by 24-11, 25-10, and 25-10 seat margins. In 2006, they gained five seats, losing 20-15.

Even more telling, the average margin of victory in state Senate races became, comparatively, much more competitive. The average margin of victory in such races in 2000 was 51 points, followed by 62 points in 2002, and 49 points in 2004. In 2006 this was cut in half, with a 25-point average margin of victory—including 14 races decided by 10 points or less. From 2000 to 2004 only 10 of the 105 Senate races were decided by this margin. While Democrats failed to field candidates in 6 Senate races last year, 45 percent of votes for state senator still went to the Democrats, compared to just 34 percent over the previous three election cycles.

But the news is not all good for Democrats—Governor Mike Rounds won re-election by nearly twice the margin as his inaugural victory in 2002.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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