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Extended Democratic Primary Gives McCain a Boost in Wisconsin

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Last year, Wisconsin appeared ready to vote for a Democratic presidential nominee for the sixth consecutive election. Democratic candidates were defeating Republican candidates in most matchup polls and, in generic partisan matchups, Wisconsinites gave Democrats the edge by double digits in polls conducted in Spring 2007, Summer 2007, and as late as November 2007 (Badger Poll, WPR / St. Norbert College). However, Wisconsin is a classic battleground state and thus the numbers were bound to change with the political tides. And they have.

Once Republicans settled on John McCain to be their nominee, Wisconsin voters have seemed to rally around the Arizona Senator. McCain was once polling in the 30s when matched up against Hillary Clinton (Rasmussen, August 2007), but has gradually chipped away at her advantage in more than a half-dozen polls since: McCain polled at 40 percent against her in October 2007, 45 percent in November 2007, and 49 percent in December 2007 and January 2008 (Rasmussen, SurveyUSA). Two Rasmussen polls of likely Badger State voters conducted since McCain wrapped up the GOP nomination in late February and late March 2008 both show him with double-digit leads over Clinton, reaching the 50 percent mark in both surveys.

Barack Obama is more competitive against McCain than Clinton at the moment, though McCain did lead the junior Senator from Illinois by 48 to 46 percent (within the margin of error) in Rasmussen's late March poll.

The extended primary process has not been kind to Clinton in Wisconsin, and the already high unfavorable marks she had in the Badger State before announcing her candidacy (48 percent in July 2006, Rasmussen), have now climbed in recent months: to 51 percent in December 2007 and 58 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen). Flirting with 60 percent unfavorable marks will not get you elected in any state.

Obama's unfavorability numbers were also bound to increase, as he was largely an unknown quantity to the average voter before the primary season began; they have increased in Wisconsin from 39 percent in December 2007 to 45 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen). Still, a respectable 54 percent of Wisconsinites currently have a favorable rating of Obama.

McCain, however, has been a well-known and popular political figure in Wisconsin in recent years. And even though his favorability rating took an initial hit when he entered the 2008 race for the White House (dipping from 64 percent in July 2006 to 48 percent in August 2007, Rasmussen), this rating, unlike that of his Democratic challengers, has grown ever since: rising to 50 percent in October 2007 and 54 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen). Perhaps more importantly, his unfavorability rating has remained constant: 45 percent in August 2007, 44 percent in October 2007, and 45 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen).

Wisconsinites are not endeared by 'attack politics' and if McCain can stay above the fray—looking ever the more 'presidential' while his Democratic opponents beat each other up in the coming weeks—the Arizona Senator will be sitting in a good position to finally take back the Badger State for the Republicans come November.

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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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