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Minnesota Republicans to End Census Period with Best U.S. House Electoral Record Since 1970s

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GOP will reverse four decade-long decline of losing net seats to the DFL each Census period

With Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen dashing the DFL's hopes for a Party record seven seats in the Minnesota U.S. House delegation in 2008, the Republican Party of Minnesota has virtually guaranteed it will string together its best electoral performance in U.S. House races during the current 2002-2010 Census period since the 1970s.

To be sure, the GOP won ugly in 2008. Only 38.1 percent of Minnesotans cast their ballots for Republicans in U.S. House contests in 2008, which was the lowest percentage of ballots cast for GOP U.S. House candidates since the Great Depression (32.5 percent in 1934). Votes for Republican U.S. House candidates had not dipped below the 40 percent mark since the second time FDR was elected president back in 1936.

Still, taking the long view, the electoral map has been rosier for Republicans of late in this Democrat-leaning state in U.S. House contests.

During the 1992-2000 Census period - despite the Republican Revolution that propelled the GOP to take back the U.S. House and score dozens of pick-ups nationwide - Minnesota Republican candidates won only 27.5 percent of U.S. House races (11 of 40 seats).

This was the worst showing in state history for the GOP - dipping past the previous low water mark of 35.0 percent of races set during the previous 1982-1990 cycle (14 of 40 seats).

In the current 2002-2008 Census period, Republicans have won 14 of 32 contests, or a 43.8 percent clip.

Even if the GOP only holds their three seats in what most analysts are projecting to be a banner year at the ballot box for Republicans nationwide this fall, Minnesota Republicans will have won six more seats during this Census period than during the 1992-2000 cycle.

Of course, the power of the Republican Party has fallen significantly in the Gopher State over the past few generations (as it has in neighboring Wisconsin and northern states generally).

Since statehood, Republicans have won 64.4 percent of all general and special election U.S. House races in Minnesota (368 of 571).

During a stretch from the 1860s through the 1900s, the GOP won more than 85 percent of U.S. House seats in Minnesota: 90.0 percent from 1862-1870, 93.3 percent from 1872-1880, 64.3 percent from 1882-1890, 91.4 percent from 1892-1900, and 91.1 percent from 1902-1910.

But from the 1960s through the 1990s, Republicans became mired in a gradual downward spiral - losing more and more elections to the DFL each Census period.

· From 1962-1970 Republicans won 55.0 percent of U.S. House elections in Minnesota (22 of 40).
· From 1972-1980 the GOP won 48.8 percent of such contests (20 of 41) - the first Census period in which they did not win a majority of races.
· From 1982-1990 Republicans won just 35.0 percent of U.S. House races (14 of 40).
· From 1992-2000 the GOP won only 27.5 percent of U.S. House elections (11 of 40).

Republicans still face an uphill battle as they endeavor to once again gain a majority of seats in the state's U.S. House delegation.

The extent to which the partisan leanings of the Gopher State have changed over past generations vis-à-vis the national political landscape can be seen thusly:

Prior to the Republican Revolution of 1994, the Minnesota U.S. House delegation was comprised of a majority of Republicans in 26 of the 27 general elections since statehood in which the Republican P arty won a majority of U.S. House races nationwide.

(In one instance, 1868, there was a tie - with Democrats and Republicans each winning one seat in the Gopher State's then two-seat delegation).

In fact, during these 27 general election cycles (1858, 1860, 1862, 1864, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1880, 1888, 1894, 1896, 1898, 1900, 1902, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1922, 1924, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1946), Minnesota Republicans won a staggering 160 of the 178 seats, or 89.9 percent. Democrats (and the DFL in 1946) won only 7 seats during these elections, with third parties winning 11 seats.

However, when Republicans controlled the U.S. House after the 1994 election and through the next five election cycles thereafter, Minnesota Republican U.S. House candidates won only 17 of 48 seats, or just 35.4 percent.

It might be a mistake, however, to assume that the conclusion to be drawn from this data is that significant movements to the GOP nationally are going to have little effect on Republican success in the Gopher State.

No doubt, the DFL staved off losses in the 1990s and 2000s (and will likely continue to do so even if there is a backlash against Democrats in 2010) due to the good will and name recognition long-serving DFLers Collin Peterson and Jim Oberstar have amassed in their 7th and 8th Congressional Districts respectively.

Both of these districts will undoubtedly be fiercely competitive once these senior members of the state's U.S. House delegation decide to retire.

Percentage of Minnesota U.S. House Seats Won by Republicans During Each Census Period Since Statehood

Period
GOP
Dem/DFL
Third
Total
% GOP
2002-2008
14
18
0
32
43.8
1992-2000
11
29
0
40
27.5
1982-1990
14
26
0
40
35.0
1972-1980
20
21
0
41
48.8
1962-1970
22
18
0
40
55.0
1952-1960
25
21
0
46
54.3
1942-1950
33
11
1
45
73.3
1932-1940
26
4
15
45
57.8
1922-1930
42
0
10
52
80.8
1912-1920
43
4
4
51
84.3
1902-1910
41
4
0
45
91.1
1892-1900
32
2
1
35
91.4
1882-1890
18
6
1
28
64.3
1872-1880
14
1
0
15
93.3
1862-1870
9
1
0
10
90.0
1857-1860
4
2
0
6
66.7
Total
368
168
32
571
64.4
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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2 Comments


  • "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

  • I'm still not wild about using pre-WWII data to establish trend lines for things like this; campaign have changed so much that it's like comparing apples to zucchini.

    And the 8th will instantly become competitive when Oberstar retires? More competitive, perhaps...but considering how poorly the MN GOP has performed across the board in the 8th, I think it's still going to trend DFL so long as a solid candidate is put forward when Oberstar does retire.

  • Leave a comment


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