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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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Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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