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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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Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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