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Presidential Politics in Iowa: A Historical Overview

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Despite being a competitive battle ground state in recent years, and an important state in determining the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties, the state of Iowa has not had a long history of voting for Democrats in the race for the White House.

Overall, Republicans have carried the state in 29 of 40 elections since 1848, including 28 of 33 races from 1856 through 1984. By comparison, Minnesotans have voted for 20 Republicans and 16 Democrats since statehood.

Democrats carried Iowa in its first 2 elections (1848, 1852), and in 4 of the past 5 elections since 1988. Of the 31.9 million votes cast for president in the Hawkeye state, Republicans hold a 2.3 million net vote advantage (51.4 percent to 44.0 percent).

Like its neighbor to the north, Iowa has been on the winning side of presidential politics in 73 percent of presidential contests, siding with the winner in 29 of 40 elections.

The state has had its share of competitive contests—with 15 of 40 (38 percent) decided by less than 10 points. Minnesota has had a virtually identical number of competitive races—13 of 36 (36 percent).

In their 11 losses in Iowa, the GOP has been competitive in just 3 contests:

* In 2000, George W. Bush lost by 0.3 points to Al Gore
* In 1992, George H.W. Bush lost by 6.0 points to Bill Clinton
* In 1948, Thomas Dewey lost to Harry Truman by 2.7 points

Democrats have been competitive in only 9 of their 29 losses:

* In 2004, John Kerry lost to George W. Bush by 0.7 points.
* In 1984, Walter Mondale lost to Ronald Reagan by 7.4 points.
* In 1976, Jimmy Carter lost to Gerald Ford by 1.0 points.
* In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt lost to Thomas Dewey by 4.5 points.
* In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt lost to Wendell Willkie by 4.4 points.
* In 1892, Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison by 5.3 points.
* In 1888, Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison by 7.9 points.
* In 1884, Grover Cleveland lost to James Blaine by 5.2 points.
* In 1856, James Buchanan lost to John Frémont by 8.1 points.

On three occasions other parties have lost competitive races:

* In 1912, Progressive Teddy Roosevelt lost by 4.7 points to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
* In 1852, Whig Winfield Scott lost by 5.4 points to Democrat Franklin Pierce.
* In 1848, Whig Zachary Taylor lost by 6.0 points to Democrat Lewis Cass.

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