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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

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


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.


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