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Political Influence of Upper Midwest In Decline?

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Iowa's influence on presidential politics is in the spotlight right now, with its caucuses now just 37 days away, on January 3, 2008. The winner of each party's caucus is by no means guaranteed to go on and win the nomination, but a surprise showing can go a long way in propelling a candidate with the momentum he or she needs to remain competitive throughout the rest of January and into the Super Tuesday primaries of February 5th when voters in as many as 20 states will go to the polls.

Despite Iowa's role in the presidential selection process, the influence of that state, and the Upper Midwest generally, has been waning over the decades as populations here stagnate relative to the rest of the country. As a result, through reapportionment, the level of representation of Upper Midwestern states in the U.S. House is about to reach a low water mark not seen since the 1870s.

Iowa is currently projected to lose one seat in the 2012 reapportionment, which would bring its total down to 4 seats—its lowest total since the 1850s, when it sent two representatives to the House.

Should Iowa lose a seat, the political battleground states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will only send 20 representatives to the House, a drop of nearly 40 percent of its level of representation in the 1920s when the three states sent 32 representatives to the lower chamber on the Hill.

The voice of Upper Midwesterners has been gradually watered down ever since—dropping to 28 seats in the 1930s, 27 seats in the 1940s, 25 seats in the 1960s, 23 seats in the 1970s, 22 seats in the 1990s, and 21 seats in the 2000s after Wisconsin lost a seat in 2002.

Since the 1920s, Minnesota has been the most stable of the three states — losing only 2 seats, and none since the 1960s. Wisconsin has lost 3 seats and Iowa has dropped from 11 seats to potentially just 4 in 2012.

When South Dakota, which gained statehood in 1889, is factored into the numbers, the drop is even more severe. The four states totaled 35 representatives in the 1920s, a drop of 14 seats to just 21 in 2012.

Despite this (comparatively) downward population trend in the region, the Upper Midwest, including Iowa, remains vigorously opposed to the influx of illegal immigration into the country and region, as documented regularly here at Smart Politics. There is little doubt illegal immigration will continue to play a role in the decrease of the Upper Midwestern delegation in future generations as populations surge in America's southwest.

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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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