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Presidential Politics in Wisconsin: A Historical Overview

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Since Wisconsinites cast their first presidential ballots in 1848, approximately 900,000 more votes have been cast for Republican presidential nominees than Democrats, out of more than 43.2 million votes cast across 40 presidential elections.

Wisconsin has been on the winning side of Presidential politics in three-quarters (75 percent) of elections — 30 of 40 races. After being on the winning side of 9 of 10 elections from 1948 to 1984, Wisconsin has cast its vote for the losing candidate in 3 of the last 5 elections.

Overall, Wisconsinites have voted far more times for Republican candidates (24) than Democrats (15), with home-state political legend Robert M. LaFollette carrying the state on the Progressive ticket back in 1924 with 54 percent of the vote.

The state – like much of the Upper Midwest – overwhelmingly voted for Republicans with the introduction of the GOP back in 1856 when John C. Frémont was its nominee. From 1856 through 1984, Republicans won the Badger State in 24 of 33 elections (73 percent), with Democrats winning just 8 times (24 percent).

Republicans have also enjoyed larger average margin of victories (13.9 points) than have Democrats (9.9 points). The Democratic streak of 5 victories in a row from 1988 through 2004 has included 4 wins of less than 5 points each.

Wisconsin’s presidential elections overall have been more competitive than have the neighboring states of Minnesota and Iowa. In Wisconsin, the average margin of victory across 40 elections has been 12.4 points, compared to 14.2 points in Iowa and 16.4 points in Minnesota.

Approximately 20.77 million votes (48.0 percent) have been cast in Wisconsin for Republican presidential nominees, compared to 19.88 million (45.9 percent) for Democrats and 2.65 million for third parties (6.1 percent).

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The Second Time Around

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