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Presidential Politics in Minnesota: A Historical Overview

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Since Minnesotans cast their first presidential ballots in 1860, nearly 1 million more votes have been marked for Democratic (Democrat + DFL) presidential nominees compared to votes for Republican nominees, out of more than 38.6 million votes cast across 37 presidential elections. However, a larger percentage of votes (based on yearly percentages) have been cast for Republicans (50 percent) than Democrats (43 percent) due to the fact that the Democratic trend began just prior to the mid-20th Century when the state's voting age population increased substantially.

Minnesota has been on the winning side of Presidential politics in just less than three-quarters (73 percent) of elections—27 of 37 races. The state has been a bit more defiant in following national trends in recent years, voting for the winning president in just 6 of the past 12 elections since 1960.

Overall, the state has voted for more Republicans (20) than Democrats (16), with one third-party nominee winning the state's electoral votes (Progressive Teddy Roosevelt in 1912).

But the trend towards a bluer Minnesota did not begin until Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Since 1932, the state has voted for Democratic presidential nominees in 16 of 19 elections, with the only Republican successes in the state being Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1952 and 1956 campaigns and Richard Nixon's victory in 1972.

Prior to 1932, Republican nominees had won the Gopher State in 17 of 18 elections, with the Democrats failing to capture the state even once. Only three times did the Democratic presidential nominee even get within 10 points of victory:

* In 1916, Woodrow Wilson lost the state by 0.1 points to Republican nominee Charles E. Hughes.
* In 1912, Wilson lost by 5.9 points to Progressive Teddy Roosevelt.
* In 1892, Grover Cleveland lost by 8.2 points to Benjamin Harrison.

Overall, approximately 18.57 million votes (48.1 percent) have been cast in Minnesota for Democratic presidential nominees, compared to 17.57 million (45.5 percent) for Republicans and 2.48 million for third parties (6.4 percent).

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The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


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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).


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