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How Blue Is Minnesota? Not 7 U.S. House Seats Blue

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Tim Walz’s pick-up of the Gopher State’s 1st Congressional District in 2006 buoyed hopes for the DFL of a decisive bluish trend among voters for its U.S. House candidates in the coming years. Walz’s victory surprised many pundits, even in an election year that was expecting several Democratic pick-ups across the nation (Walz’s victory was no surprise to Smart Politics, which projected his victory).

The DFL had reason to be optimistic: 2006 was the first year the DFL delegation to Congress had netted a seat since the 1990 election, when Collin Peterson picked off 6-term GOP incumbent Arlan Stangeland’s 7th District seat.

As such, when popular Republican Representative Jim Ramstad announced his retirement in 2007, the DFL hungrily eyed two potential pick-ups in 2008 – Ramstad’s open 3rd District seat and 1-term Representative Michele Bachmann’s 6th District seat.

While most analysts agree that the 3rd CD should be very competitive for the DFL, the Party faithful should not be so optimistic about its chances in ousting Bachmann.

True, Bachmann won her seat in 2006 with only the barest majority – 50.1 percent. However, her district voted overwhelmingly for Tim Pawlenty in the gubernatorial race (55.9 percent, compared to just 37.3 percent for Mike Hatch). Additionally, the 6th CD demonstrated a great deal of support for Republican Mark Kennedy in the U.S. Senate race. Although Kennedy was trounced by 20.2 points statewide, he only lost by 4.8 points in the 6th CD – his strongest performance across the state.

If the DFL picked up two U.S. House seats in 2008 it would mean the state would be at its ‘bluest’ in history. The DFL has never won 7 Congressional seats in an election. The DFL held 6 seats throughout the 1990s, but never more than 5 prior to 1990. Even when the Farmer Labor Party and Democratic Party were separate entities, they could not eclipse 6 seats between them (achieved twice, in 1932 and 1936) – and that was during an era when the state was sending double-digit delegations to D.C.

For the DFL to win 7 of 8 Congressional Districts in 2008, not only would Barack Obama probably need to win Minnesota in a landslide, but Al Franken (or whomever wins the DFL primary) would also need to beat Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race.

Barring such a dramatic shift to the DFL, the Party will need to be satisfied with a delegation of 5 or 6 seats to Congress come January 2009.

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Remains of the Data

Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

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The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


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).


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