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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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