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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

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Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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