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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.

Previous post: South Dakota US Senate Historical Snapshot
Next post: Huckabee Takes First Lead In Iowa

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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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