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Economic Conerns Continue to Dominate Upper Midwest

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In monthly surveys tracking what is the most important issue facing the next president, the economy has emerged as the dominant issue across the Upper Midwest.

SurveyUSA asked 600 likely voters in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin closed-ended questions with eight choices as to what was the most important concern facing the next president: the economy, education, the environment, health care, immigration, Iraq, Social Security, and terrorism.

The economy ranks far and away as the top issue—44 percent in Minnesota, 38 percent in Iowa, and 37 percent in Wisconsin in polling conducted in mid-March 2008. But a lot has changed in the past few months since SurveyUSA began tracking this question in December 2007.

Back then, in Iowa, Iraq was the most pressing concern (19 percent) perhaps fueled by the Democratic debates and campaigning held in that state which focused so heavily on the war. The economy and health care were tied with 17 percent, followed by immigration at 16 percent. In January, the number of likely Iowa voters mentioning the economy rose to 23 percent, followed by 28 percent in February and 38 percent in mid-March. The war in Iraq was cited by only 15 percent of Iowans in March, followed by 11 percent for health care, 10 percent for terrorism, and 9 percent for immigration.

In Wisconsin, the economy was tied with health care last December as the most important problem for the next president (23 percent each), with the war in Iraq a distant third at 13 percent. Economic concerns bumped up to 39 percent in January and have remained in the mid- to high- 30s in February (34 percent) and March (37 percent). The war in Iraq ranked only as the 5th most important issue in March (8 percent), also behind health care (16 percent), terrorism (10 percent), and immigration (10 percent).

In Minnesota, the economy has been the issue throughout the past four months. Back in December, 27 percent cited the economy as the next president's most important issue, with health care (16 percent) and Iraq (16 percent) each 11 points behind. In January, the economy was mentioned by 38 percent of Minnesotans, rising to 44 percent in March. Iraq (14 percent) and health care (13 percent) remain comparatively distant concerns in the Gopher State.

The challenge for John McCain and whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee to make inroads in the Upper Midwest will be to transform their presidential campaigns that have greatly focused on foreign policy and the war in Iraq to domestic issues like the economy. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have spent much of the time focusing on health care in their domestic policy speeches, but without an economic agenda that resonates with Upper Midwesterners, they could be quite vulnerable in these battleground states.

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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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