Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Why Minnesota Democrats Should Be Thankful Tim Pawlenty Is Not Running for Reelection

Bookmark and Share

Republican gubernatorial incumbents in Minnesota have won 93 percent of reelection defenses since statehood (25 of 27), while losing 70 percent of open seat contests over the past century

While most renowned political prognosticators currently list the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial matchup in the 'toss-up' category (e.g. Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, Larry Sabato), the DFL will be fighting more than the changing national political environment in its attempt to recapture the governorship this November - it will also be fighting history.

In recent weeks, Smart Politics has documented that Minnesota currently has the third longest Democratic gubernatorial drought in the nation (23+ years), behind only South Dakota and Utah, and that 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.

However, there is one historical trend that can buoy the DFL's spirits in the run up to the 2010 election - and it all starts with Tim Pawlenty's decision to not seek reelection last June.

A Smart Politics analysis of Minnesota elections finds that the GOP has not held an open gubernatorial seat since 1946 and has lost four of the last five such contests since 1930 and seven of the last ten dating back to 1898.

Republicans most recently lost their hold on the Minnesota governor's mansion in the following open seat races:

· In 1998, after Arne Carlson's exit (with Reform Party nominee Jesse Ventura beating Norm Coleman by 2.7 points).
· In 1982, after Al Quie's 1-term reign in St. Paul (with DFLer Rudy Perpich defeating Wheelock Whitney).
· And in 1970, after Harold LeVander opted not to seek reelection (with DFLer Wendell Anderson subsequently beating Douglas Head by 8.5 points).

After nine consecutive successful defenses of open gubernatorial seats from the 1860s to the 1890s (in 1863, 1865, 1869, 1873, 1875, 1881, 1886, 1888, and 1892), the GOP lost control of the Governor's mansion to the Democrats in its next three such open seat races, in 1898, 1904, and 1914. Republicans also lost their hold on the governorship in an open seat race in 1930 to the Farmer-Labor Party (Floyd Olson).

The last time the Republican Party held an open gubernatorial seat in Minnesota was back in 1946 when Luther Youngdahl won the first of his three terms after GOP Governor Edward Thye decided to seek (and won) the U.S. Senate seat that year.

In a statistical oddity, while the GOP has 12 victories and 7 defeats overall in defending open gubernatorial seats, the Democratic Party (and DFL) has only had only one opportunity to do so - in 1859, after the state's first Governor, Democrat Henry Sibley, did not seek reelection.

Every other Democratic or DFL governor has been on the ballot in the subsequent election cycle - with the Party winning six contests (1906, 1908, 1956, 1958, 1974, 1986) and losing five (1900, 1960, 1966, 1978, 1990).

Defending open seats, of course, is nearly always more difficult for a political party than seeing an incumbent candidate reelected. Overall, political parties in Minnesota have successfully defended open gubernatorial seats in just 59.1 percent of elections (13 of 22), while winning 80.5 percent of such contests with incumbents running on the ballot (33 of 41).

And here is why Democrats should be especially relieved Governor Tim Pawlenty is not seeking a third term.

Republican incumbents in Minnesota gubernatorial elections have a nearly unblemished record - with GOP governors winning reelection in 25 of 27 such contests since statehood (92.6 percent), culminating in Pawlenty's 1.0 point victory during the Democratic tsunami of 2006.

By contrast, DFL (and formerly Democratic Party) governors have won only 6 of 11 reelection bids in Gopher State history (54.5 percent). Third party incumbents are 2 for 3.

Additionally, Republicans have also enjoyed much larger margins of victory, and much smaller margins of defeat, with gubernatorial incumbents on the ballot. In their 25 victories with incumbents, the average margin of victory for the GOP has been 16.0 points. In defending open seats, their average margin of victory has been 26.3 percent smaller - at 11.8 points.

In the seven cases in which Democrats have taken back the governor's mansion from Republicans in open seat races, the GOP's average margin of defeat has been 9.6 points. In the two cases in which GOP incumbents were defeated (in 1954 and 1962) the average margin of defeat was just 3.0 points.

Republican Party Defense of Gubernatorial Seats in Minnesota with Incumbents vs. Non-Incumbents

Status
Win
Loss
MoV
MoD
Incumbents
25
2
16.0
-3.0
Open seats
12
7
11.8
-9.6
Note: some incumbents came into office as Lieutenant Governor after resignation or death of the Governor. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

So while national politics is currently boosting the standing of many Republican candidates across the country, Democrats in Minnesota should be thankful they will be running against Candidate X in November, and not a two-term Governor whose approval rating was 53 percent in a mid-January Rasmussen poll.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Minnesota GOP Caucus Gubernatorial Straw Poll Voter Turnout Up Over 20 Percent from 2002
Next post: Red States Hold Primaries More than Five Weeks Earlier on Average than Blue States: Which Party Benefits?

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Kevin McCarthy Becomes Least Tenured Floor Leader in US House History

At less than four terms, McCarthy has served 423 fewer days in the chamber than any floor leader in U.S. House history and almost 10 years less than the average leader.

Political Crumbs

The Second Time Around

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


How Are the Plurality Winners Doing?

Nearly 40 percent of plurality winners of U.S. Senate elections lose their seat in the next election cycle. Will that happen to any of the three such incumbents on the ballot in 2014? Recent polling suggests Democrats Al Franken of Minnesota, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon all currently have an advantage over their nominated/frontrunning GOP opponents, but each is flirting with plurality support once again. Franken led endorsed GOPer Mike McFadden 48 to 42 percent in a new SurveyUSA poll while the polling group showed Merkley with a 50 to 32 percent advantage over Monica Wehby. Begich led each of the three major GOP candidates in last month's PPP survey: 42 to 37 percent over Daniel Sullivan, 41 to 33 percent over Mead Treadwell, and 43 to 27 percent over Joe Miller.


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting