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Minnesota 2nd Most Competitive State for U.S. Senate Elections Since 1990

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With the three-judge panel ruling on Monday that Al Franken received more legally cast votes than Norm Coleman, the Minnesota 2008 U.S. Senate race moved one step closer to a final resolution. Coleman has stated he will file an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court during the next 10 days, and there is no sign that Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty will sign an election certificate in the near future.

Whenever the final outcome of the 2008 election contest is resolved, the Gopher State will have concluded yet another very competitive U.S. Senate election.

In fact, only one other state has held more competitive U.S. Senate races than Minnesota over the last 10 election cycles dating back to 1990.

A Smart Politics analysis of 344 U.S. Senate contests since 1990 finds only the State of North Carolina has produced a narrower average margin of victory (6.0 points) than the Gopher State (6.4 points). Minnesota's Senate races have been 3.6 times more competitive than the national average (22.8 points) during this span.

Although only 100 of these 344 races (29.1 percent) have been decided by less than 10 points, 6 of the past 7 U.S. Senate contests in Minnesota have been decided by this competitive margin, or 85.6 percent. North Carolina is the only other state with as high a percentage of competitive races, with all seven of its U.S. Senate races since 1990 being decided by less than 10 points.

Minnesota is also the only Upper Midwestern state to rank among the Top 10 most competitive in the nation:

· South Dakota (#11) has produced four competitive races since 1990, with an average victory margin of 13.5 points.
· Wisconsin (#15) has held two tightly fought contests during this span, with an average margin of victory of 16.7 points.
· Iowa (#29) has also only had two competitive races since 1990, averaging a 24.7-point victory margin.
· North Dakota (#34) has not produced a competitive U.S. Senate race during this span, with Democrats Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad sweeping through seven contests with an average victory margin of 27.5 points.

The only other state from the general Midwest region to rank in the Top 10 is Missouri (#4, 8.4 point average victory margin).

Of the 100 competitive races held nationwide since 1990, 51 have been won by the Democrats and 49 by the Republicans. However, since 2006, Democrats have won 11 of 16 races decided by less than 10 points (counting Franken's victory), as the Party has clawed its way closer to a filibuster-proof 60-seat caucus in the Senate.

Average Margin of Victory in U.S. Senate Elections, 1990-2008

State
'90
'92
'94
'96
'98
'00
'02
'04
'06
'08
Ave
NC
5.2
4.0
 
6.7
4.1
 
8.6
4.6
 
8.5
6.0
MN
2.6
 
5.0
9.0
 
5.5
2.2
 
20.2
0.0
6.4
NJ
3.0
 
3.3
10.1
 
3.0
9.9
 
9.0
14.1
7.5
MO
 
7.0
24.0
 
8.9
2.1
1.1
13.3
2.3
 
8.4
CO
14.0
9.1
 
5.0
27.5
 
4.9
4.8
 
10.3
10.8
WA
 
8.0
11.5
 
16.8
0.1
 
12.2
16.9
 
10.9
PA
 
2.8
2.5
 
26.6
6.9
 
10.6
17.4
 
11.1
KY
4.4
27.1
 
12.6
0.6
 
29.4
1.3
 
5.9
11.6
SC
31.7
3.1
 
9.4
7.0
 
10.2
9.6
 
15.3
12.3
NV
 
10.8
9.9
 
0.1
15.4
 
25.9
14.4
 
12.8
SD
7.3
32.4
 
2.6
25.7
 
0.1
1.2
 
25.0
13.5
OR
7.5
5.6
 
3.9
27.3
 
16.6
31.7
 
3.4
13.7
CA
 
4.9
1.9
 
10.1
19.3
 
19.9
24.4
 
13.8
MI
16.3
 
9.1
18.5
 
1.6
22.7
 
15.7
28.8
16.1
OH
 
8.7
14.2
 
12.9
24.0
 
27.7
12.4
 
16.7
WI
 
6.6
17.6
 
2.1
24.5
 
11.3
37.8
 
16.7
NH
33.8
2.8
 
3.0
39.6
 
4.4
32.5
 
6.3
17.5
GA
100
1.6
 
1.3
7.2
20.3
6.9
17.9
 
2.9
19.8
TX
22.8
 
22.5
10.8
 
32.7
12.0
 
25.7
12.0
19.8
LA
10.5
64.2
 
0.3
32.4
 
3.4
21.7
 
6.4
19.8
NY
 
1.3
13.7
 
10.5
12.3
 
46.9
36.0
 
20.1
FL
 
30.8
41.0
 
24.9
4.9
 
1.1
22.2
 
20.8
MT
38.8
 
24.7
4.9
 
3.3
31.0
 
0.9
45.8
21.3
TN
37.9
 
14.3
24.6
 
32.9
9.9
 
2.7
33.5
22.2
NE
18.0
 
9.8
14.5
 
2.2
68.1
 
27.8
17.5
22.6
DE
26.9
 
13.3
21.9
 
11.8
17.4
 
39.6
29.4
22.9
IL
30.1
10.2
 
15.4
2.9
 
22.3
42.9
 
39.3
23.3
AL
21.2
31.7
 
7.0
26.6
 
18.8
35.2
 
26.8
23.9
IA
9.1
42.4
 
5.1
37.9
 
10.4
42.3
 
25.4
24.7
OK
66.4
20.4
15.3
16.6
35.1
 
21.0
11.5
 
17.5
25.5
VA
62.8
 
2.7
5.1
 
4.6
72.8
 
0.4
31.3
25.7
ME
22.7
 
23.9
5.3
 
37.9
16.9
 
53.4
22.8
26.1
CT
 
20.7
36.0
 
32.8
29.0
 
34.2
10.0
 
27.1
ND
 
20.1
16.0
 
28.0
22.8
 
36.6
39.3
 
27.5
MD
 
42.0
18.2
 
41.0
26.4
 
31.1
10.0
 
28.1
NM
45.9
 
8.0
34.9
 
23.5
30.1
 
41.3
22.7
29.5
RI
23.7
 
29.1
28.4
 
15.7
56.8
 
7.0
46.8
29.6
AR
99.7
20.4
 
5.4
12.9
 
7.8
11.8
 
59.1
31.0
VT
 
10.8
9.8
 
49.8
40.1
 
46.1
33.0
 
31.6
IN
7.3
16.6
36.9
 
28.9
34.7
 
24.4
74.8
 
31.9
UT
 
15.7
40.5
 
31.0
34.1
 
40.3
31.3
 
32.2
MA
14.2
 
17.1
7.5
 
60.0
61.6
 
38.8
34.9
33.4
AK
34.0
14.6
 
64.2
54.8
 
67.7
3.0
 
1.2
34.2
ID
22.6
13.1
 
17.1
41.1
 
32.6
98.4
 
23.6
35.5
KS
47.2
31.7
 
27.6
33.7
 
73.4
41.7
 
23.6
36.2
AZ
 
24.2
14.2
 
41.6
71.5
 
56.1
9.8
 
36.2
WY
27.9
 
19.6
11.9
 
51.7
45.9
 
40.1
51.4
36.8
WV
36.7
 
38.0
53.3
 
57.6
26.2
 
30.7
27.4
38.6
HI
9.4
30.3
47.6
 
61.4
48.2
 
54.5
24.6
 
39.4
MS
100
 
37.6
43.7
 
34.3
69.2
 
28.7
22.9
43.3
Ave
30.3
17.8
19.2
15.2
24.8
24.0
26.2
23.7
24.2
22.8
22.8
Note: Six states held two U.S. Senate elections during the same year. Special elections were held in California and North Dakota in 1992, Tennessee in 1994, Kansas in 1996, and Mississippi and Wyoming in 2008. These election results are reflected in the total average victory margin in the far right column, as well as the yearly average victory margin row at the bottom of the table, but not in the respective state/yearly cells in which the contests took place.

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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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