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Presidential Politics in Minnesota II: The Battleground State

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Even though Democrats have carried the Gopher State in eight consecutive presidential elections dating back to 1976, and 16 of the past 19, Minnesota has rightfully earned its reputation as a purple battleground state when it comes to presidential politics.

Despite the Democratic dominance, the margin of victory in presidential elections has been historically slim in Minnesota in recent generations, and overall quite competitive.

In the state's first 20 votes for president, from 1860 to 1936, only 3 races were competitive—decided by 10 points or less (1892, 1912, and 1916). An equal number of elections decided by more than 30 points (Teddy Roosevelt's 55-point victory in 1904, Warren Harding's 51-point victory in 1920, and FDR's 31-point victory in 1936). The average margin of victory in Minnesota across these twenty elections was a large 22.8 points.

By contrast, during the past 17 elections (1940-2004) 10 of the 17 races were competitive, with an average margin of victory of just 8.8 points across these 17 races. In fact, although Republicans lost each race, the GOP Republican nominee has been competitive in 5 of the past 7 races since 1980, losing by an average of just 6 points.

The Democratic dominance in the face of a continuing pattern of highly competitive races is quite unusual—it is surprising the GOP has not broken through with victories more often. Democrats are currently favored again in 2008—with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards all leading in match-up polls against the leading Republican candidates.

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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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