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Will Obama Perform Stronger in Wisconsin Than in Minnesota? Don’t Count On It

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A new poll by Quinnipiac University of more than 1,000 likely voters in both Minnesota and Wisconsin was released Thursday with a surprising headline: Barack Obama led John McCain by just 2 points in the Gopher State (46 to 44 percent) but had an 11-point advantage over the Arizona Senator in the Badger State (50 to 39 percent).

Before McCain supporters get too enthusiastic that his campaign has made great inroads in Minnesota, and before Obama supporters get too self-assured that the Illinois Senator will roll to an easy win in Wisconsin, Smart Politics offers the following history lesson: the Democratic presidential nominee has performed more strongly in Minnesota than in Wisconsin during the last 17 elections, dating back to 1940.

In every election for the past 68 years, regardless of whether the Democratic nominee has carried both states (1940, 1948, 1964, 1976, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004), only Minnesota (1944, 1960, 1968, 1980, 1984), or neither state (1952, 1956, 1972), Democrats have always fared better in Minnesota than in Wisconsin (as measured by the percentage point difference between the Democratic and Republican nominees in each state).

On average, Democratic presidential nominees have performed 7.6 points stronger in Minnesota than in the Badger State. During the past 5 elections since 1988 (when both states have consistently voted Democratic), the margin is 4.3 points.

Overall, Minnesota has voted for the Democratic nominee in 14 of the 17 elections since 1940, while Wisconsinites voted Democratic in just 9 of them.

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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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