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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

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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