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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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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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