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MN Senate Election Analysis, Part 2: Norm Coleman’s Metro Slide

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On Monday, Smart Politics examined the margin of victory and loss in each county between the DFL candidates in the 2006 gubernatorial and 2008 U.S. Senate races, and found Al Franken most severely underperformed in the Northern counties of the Gopher State vis-à-vis Mike Hatch.

Today, in the second part of the series, Smart Politics focuses on the geographic region of the state that contributed most to putting Norm Coleman in the position he is in today: lawyered up and nervously awaiting the results of a high-profile recount.

By examining the margin of victory or loss in each county across the state between Republican Tim Pawlenty in the 2006 gubernatorial contest and Coleman in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, it is clear that a moderate slide in the metro area did the greatest damage to Coleman’s vote tally.

Overall, across the state, Coleman actually improved on Pawlenty’s performance in most counties: Coleman increased the margin of victory (or decreased the margin of loss) for the GOP in 50 of the state’s 87 counties from 2006. Franken improved on Hatch's performance in just 32 counties, and 5 counties saw no measurable change.

However, even though the drops were modest, Coleman was clearly hurt by the ground he lost in each of the 7 metro counties from Pawlenty’s 2006 performance – including those that are GOP-leaning. The 1-term GOP incumbent lost 8 points off Pawlenty's victory margin in Carver County, 5 points in Scott, 3 points in Dakota, 2 points in Washington, and 1 point in Anoka County. Coleman also endured an increased margin of loss by 4 points in Hennepin County and 1 point in Ramsey County.

Now, this may seem like only moderate ground lost for Coleman, considering the multitude of counties in which Franken’s margin of victory or loss was double-digits worse than Mike Hatch in 2006. In fact, Coleman dropped off from Pawlenty’s margin of victory or loss by double-digits in just one county across the entire state: Steele (by 10 points). Franken, on the other hand, endured double-digit drop-offs in thirteen counties: Freeborn, Carlton, Hubbard, Polk, St. Louis, Pennington, Marshall, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Kittson, Clearwater, Koochiching, and Red Lake.

The problem for Coleman, of course, is that the seven metro counties are densely populated. As such, Franken was able to offset double-digit dips in many counties simply by bettering Hatch’s performance in Hennepin County by 4 points.

What further compounds Coleman’s metro problem is that election turnout in this presidential election year (77.9 percent) was obviously much higher than when Pawlenty ran in 2006 (59.5 percent): a 30.9 percent increase. That means the increased deficits Coleman suffered in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties were multiplied, and the victory margins Coleman enjoyed in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott, and Washington Counties were not fully maximized. More to the point, voter turnout in the Metro region was disproportionately higher in the 2008 U.S. Senate race than in the 2006 gubernatorial election. Voter turnout increased 30.9 percent statewide from 2006 to 2008, but increased by 33.7 percent in the metro region:

Scott: +41.9 percent
Carver: +35.8 percent
Anoka: +35.6 percent
Dakota: +34.1 percent
Hennepin: +33.7 percent
Ramsey: +31.8 percent
Washington: +30.3 percent

The metro region accounted for 55 percent of the statewide votes in the U.S. Senate race in 2008, compared to 53.9 percent of the gubernatorial votes in 2006. And, more importantly, the Democratic strongholds of Hennepin and Ramsey counties accounted for 30.5 percent of the 2008 Senate vote statewide, compared to 29.9 percent of the gubernatorial vote in 2006.

In an election decided by a few hundred votes, this disproportionately higher turnout in Hennepin and Ramsey counties in 2008 may ultimately be the deciding factor in the race.

Previous post: MN Senate Election Analysis, Part 1: Franken Underperforms in Northern Minnesota
Next post: Smart Politics On WCCO-TV's "Good Question": Obama and His Blackberry

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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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