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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

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Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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