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Obama's Near Misses Northwest of the Mississippi

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Barack Obama's convincing victory on Election Day was noted for several strong performances West of the Mississippi - picking up New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada as well as taking back Iowa, which had flipped to the GOP in 2004.

Obama also turned in particularly impressive performances in Montana and the Dakotas (and John McCain's home state of Arizona), though it remains to be seen whether the president-elect will be able to lead Democrats into serious contention in these states in 2012 and beyond.

History is on the side of the GOP.

South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana have each participated in 30 presidential elections since statehood, beginning in 1892.

On the positive side for the Democrats, Obama's performance in South Dakota (44.8 percent) was the 10th highest ever and the largest since Michael Dukakis in 1988 (46.5 percent). South Dakota turnout for Obama was also 5.1 points higher than its 116-year average (39.1 percent).

In North Dakota, Obama's 44.5 percent was the 9th highest in state history, and the largest since Jimmy Carter in 1976 (45.8 percent). It was also 7.1 points greater than the statewide historical average in presidential elections (37.3 percent).

Montana, the Democratic Party's next best chance to pick up a West of the Mississippi state in 2012, registered 47.2 percent for Obama - good for 11th highest in state history, and the largest since LBJ in 1964 (59.0 percent). But, Montana used to be a Democratic stronghold throughout WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII, with its nominees carrying the state 11 times overall 1896, 1900, 1912, 1916, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1964, and 1992. As such, Obama's 2008 vote tally was just 1.8 points better than the state's historical average for Democrats (45.4 percent).

The Democratic Party has a much steeper hill to climb at the presidential level in the Dakotas: no Democrat has won either state since LBJ in 1964. Democrats have carried South Dakota just four times (1896, 1932, 1936, and 1964) and North Dakota five times (1912, 1916, 1932, 1936, and 1964).

Looking at the three-state region as a whole, Democrats have reached the 50 percent mark in just 3 of 45 presidential contests dating back to 1952 (and all of those in 1964).

Democratic Vote in Presidential Elections, 1892-2008

Year
South Dakota
North Dakota
Montana
2008
44.8
44.5
47.2
2004
38.4
35.5
38.6
2000
37.6
33.1
33.4
1996
43.0
40.1
41.2
1992
37.1
32.2
37.6
1988
46.5
43.0
46.2
1984
36.5
33.8
38.2
1980
31.7
26.3
32.4
1976
48.9
45.8
45.4
1972
45.5
35.8
37.9
1968
42.0
38.2
41.6
1964
55.6
58.0
59.0
1960
41.8
44.5
48.6
1956
41.6
38.1
42.9
1952
30.7
28.4
40.1
1948
47.0
43.4
53.1
1944
41.7
45.5
54.3
1940
42.6
44.2
58.8
1936
54.0
59.6
69.3
1932
63.6
57.4
58.8
1928
39.2
44.5
40.5
1924
13.3
7.0
19.4
1920
19.7
18.2
32.1
1916
45.9
47.8
56.9
1912
42.1
34.1
35.0
1908
35.1
34.8
42.6
1904
21.7
20.4
33.8
1900
41.1
39.6
58.4
1896*
49.7
43.7
79.9
1892
12.7
0.0
39.8

* Democrat William Jennings Bryan ran on the Populist ticket in South Dakota in 1896.



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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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