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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

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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