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Minnesota Remains Obama's Upper Midwestern Stronghold

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President Barack Obama's clean sweep through Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin en route to his 2008 presidential election victory continues what has been a historical pattern for most of the past 150 years.

These three Upper Midwestern states have historically been a key electoral bloc for successful presidential campaigns since 1860, the first such election after the Gopher State achieved statehood. Presidential nominees who have swept through these states have won 23 of 27 elections during this span.

Only Al Gore (2000), Michael Dukakis (1988), Charles Hughes (1916), and James Blaine (1884) failed to win the White House after sweeping Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

However, while the support President Obama enjoyed nationwide at the onset of his term has eroded, as expected, in several "McCain states" across the country, he has seen some of the biggest erosion occur in (light) blue states right here in the Upper Midwest.

The latest SurveyUSA polling, conducted a little over a week ago, finds that while Obama's approval rating remains fairly steady in Minnesota, it has declined noticeably in the neighboring states of Iowa and Wisconsin.

In Minnesota, 55 percent of adults approve of Obama's job performance - up from 53 percent in August and 51 percent in July. Although Obama's rating is down from his high water mark of 64 percent back at the beginning of his 'honeymoon period' in January of this year, it is still slightly north of the percentage of Minnesotans who voted for him last November (54 percent).

This is not the case for Obama in Minnesota's neighbors to the south and east.

Although Obama had a virtually identical level of support on Election Day in Iowa (54 percent) and Wisconsin (56 percent) as he did in Minnesota, his approval rating has fallen to 46 and 47 percent in the Hawkeye and Badger States respectively.

The 16.1 percent drop-off in support for Obama since the November election among Wisconsinites and 14.8 percent decline among Iowans are the largest among the 13 states tracked each month by SurveyUSA.

The low marks received by Obama in Iowa and Wisconsin do not appear to be statistical aberrations - the President received an approval rating of 45 percent in both states in SurveyUSA's August round of polling as well.

Since January, Obama's job performance rating has dropped 32.9 percent in Wisconsin (from 70 to 47 percent) and 32.4 percent in Iowa (from 68 to 46 percent).

Minnesota is one of only three states tracked by SurveyUSA in which Obama's current approval rating is higher than the percentage of the vote he received last November (the others being Oregon at +2 points and California at +1).

Barack Obama Approval Ratings Vis-à-vis Percentage of Presidential Vote Received

State
Approval
Vote
Diff.
% Diff.
Oregon
59
57
+2
+3.5
Minnesota
55
54
+1
+1.9
California
62
61
+1
+1.6
New York
63
63
0
0.0
Kentucky
39
41
-2
-4.9
Alabama
37
39
-2
-5.1
Washington
53
57
-4
-7.0
Kansas
39
42
-3
-7.1
Virginia
49
53
-4
-7.5
Missouri
44
49
-5
-10.2
New Mexico
50
57
-7
-12.3
Iowa
46
54
-8
-14.8
Wisconsin
47
56
-9
-16.1
Average
49.5
52.5
-3.1
-5.9
Source: SurveyUSA polls of 600 adults in each state, conducted September 27-28, 2009.

A recent Star Tribune poll found Obama with a 51 percent approval rating in the Gopher State and a 45 percent disapproval rating. The SurveyUSA poll measured Obama's disapproval rating at just 40 percent.

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73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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