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Can the GOP Sweep All Four Upper Midwestern Gubernatorial Contests in November?

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Republicans have swept nearly half the gubernatorial election cycles in the region over the past 100 years, including 1990 and 1994

This November, the states of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin will each hold gubernatorial elections - the last three of which will be open-seat races.

While Democrats expect to be competitive in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, it has been 48 years since the Democratic Party has won all three of these states in the same election cycle (1962). And it has been 52 years since the Democrats won all four states in the region (1958).

However, it has only been 16 years since Republicans ran a clean sweep through the gubernatorial elections in the Upper Midwest - winning all four states in 1994.

The Republican Party thus has its eyes set on another Upper Midwestern sweep in 2010 - even though the GOP must defend two open seats (South Dakota and Minnesota).

Republicans have historically dominated gubernatorial races in this four state region. Over the past 100 years, the GOP has won 72.0 percent of governorships, or 121 of 168 contests.

Democrats (and the DFL) have won just 39 races in the region (23.2 percent) with third parties winning the remaining 8 contests (4.8 percent).

In fact, since 1906, when Iowa joined Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin in holding its gubernatorial elections in even-numbered years, the GOP has swept through all four states in 17 of 40 election cycles.

Republicans have won each of the four states seven times since the end of WWII: in 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1978, 1990, and 1994. Since 1906 the GOP also won all four states in 1910, 1912, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1922, 1924, 1938, 1940, and 1944.

Democrats were shut out from the winner's circle in each of these 17 election cycles plus an 18th - in 1942 - when the Republicans won Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota and the Progressive Party candidate won the State of Wisconsin.

Democrats, meanwhile, have swept through the region just one time in the last century - in 1958.

(Republicans also failed to win a gubernatorial race in 1932 and 1934 when a mix of Democrats, Progressives, and Farmer-Laborites were elected in the region).

Here is a snapshot of the historical trends over the past 100 years:

South Dakota

In South Dakota, two-term GOP Governor Tim Rounds in term-limited. Even so, the Mount Rushmore State is always the safest bet for a GOP victory in the region. Republicans have won eight gubernatorial elections in a row dating back to 1978, as well as 35 of the last 43 races over the past century (81.4 percent).

The Democratic gubernatorial drought in South Dakota is the longest of any state in the country.

Iowa

The one incumbent on the ballot in 2010 will be Iowa's Democratic Governor Chet Culver. Culver, however, saw his approval numbers dip to as low as the mid-30s this past year (August 2009, SurveyUSA) and may face a formidable opponent in former 4-term Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

The 12-year hold the Democratic Party of Iowa will have had on the governor's mansion at the end of Culver's 1st term is actually the longest the Democrats have ever held the office in Hawkeye State history.

Democrats have never won four consecutive gubernatorial elections in Iowa as they are seeking to do in 2010, having won three in a row on two other occasions: 1932-1934-1936 and 1962-1964-1966.

Overall, the GOP has won 32 of 43 gubernatorial races in Iowa over the past 100 years (74.4 percent) with Democrats winning the remaining 11 (25.6 percent).

Wisconsin

In the Badger State, unpopular Democratic Governor Jim Doyle announced several months ago he would not be on the ballot in 2010, but his absence from the race has not seen quite the avalanche of candidates as seen in Minnesota after Governor Tim Pawlenty's announcement he would not seek a third term early last summer.

Had Doyle run and won, which would have been an extremely unlikely prospect, he would have been the first 3-term Democratic governor in Wisconsin's 160+ year history.

Republicans have won 30 of 42 gubernatorial contests in the Badger State over the past 100 years (71.4 percent), compared to just 9 for the Democrats (21.4 percent) and 3 for third parties (7.1 percent).

Minnesota

The Gopher State has presented Republicans with their stiffest gubernatorial competition in the region. And although most analysts label this open-seat race a 'toss up' the DFL does not have history on its side.

The GOP has won 24 of 40 contests over the past century (60.0 percent), with Democrats and the DFL winning 11 races (27.5 percent), and third parties winning 5 (12.5 percent).

At 23+ years, the DFL also currently has the third longest gubernatorial drought in the nation for the Democrats, behind only South Dakota and Utah.

Moreover, Democrats have had historical difficulties in winning gubernatorial elections in Minnesota with a Democrat in the White House - losing 22 of 25 such races since statehood.

Margin of Republican Victory (or Loss) in Upper Midwestern Gubernatorial Elections, 1906-2006

Year
Iowa
Minnesota
South Dakota
Wisconsin
2006
-9.6
1.0
25.6
-7.4
2002
-8.2
7.9
14.9
-3.7
1998
-5.8
-2.7
31.1
21.0
1994
15.2
29.2
14.9
36.3
1990
21.7
3.3
17.8
16.4
1986
3.9
-13.0
3.6
6.5
1982
6.3
-18.9
41.8
-14.9
1978
17.3
7.0
13.2
9.5
1974
17.1
-33.4
-7.2
-11.1
1972
18.1
 
-20.0
 
1970
4.4
-8.5
-9.6
-9.3
1968
8.2
 
15.4
6.1
1966
-11.1
5.7
15.4
7.4
1964
-36.7
 
3.4
1.2
1962
-5.2
0.0
12.2
-1.0
1960
4.2
1.5
1.4
-3.2
1958
-8.2
-14.5
-2.8
-7.3
1956
-2.4
-3.2
8.8
3.8
1954
3.1
-5.9
13.4
3.1
1952
4.1
11.3
40.4
25.2
1950
18.6
22.4
21.8
7.0
1948
12.0
8.0
22.2
10.0
1946
15.3
19.3
34.4
20.7
1944
12.4
23.8
31.0
12.2
1942
25.7
13.8
23.0
-13.2
1940
5.6
15.6
10.2
0.9
1938
7.0
25.7
8.0
19.4
1936
-0.3
-22.1
3.2
-17.0
1934
-8.2
-6.9
-17.9
-21.0
1932
-5.6
-18.3
-13.2
-10.6
1930
32.6
-23.0
6.8
36.8
1928
25.6
32.3
-5.6
15.5
1926
43.0
18.4
-7.1
49.7
1924
45.4
4.9
31.0
11.9
1922
41.0
2.1
16.3
65.8
1920
20.1
17.2
30.0
17.2
1918
3.7
14.7
27.1
13.0
1916
24.6
39.1
17.3
15.0
1914
6.1
-3.6
14.9
6.6
1912
0.3
9.4
2.8
3.0
1910
4.4
20.5
22.5
16.0
1908
12.8
-8.0
15.9
17.1
1906
4.8
-26.1
38.6
25.1
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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