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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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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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