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Will the DFL Cancel Minnesota's Membership to the 'Lonely Republican Governors Club' in 2010?

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Minnesota could emerge from Election 2010 as one of just two states in the nation with a Republican governor and Democratic-led delegations to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State Senate, and State House

As reported a few months ago by Smart Politics, the DFL's failure to win gubernatorial elections over the past two decades has put the Gopher State in unusual company - Minnesota is third behind only the archly conservative states of South Dakota and Utah for the Democratic Party's longest gubernatorial droughts in the nation.

The DFL entered the 2010 election cycle with high hopes to take back the governor's mansion - first hoping to ride the remaining waves from the 2006 and 2008 Democratic tsunamis and then learning last June that Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty would not be seeking a third term.

With 15 GOP and DFL candidates still officially in the running for the chance to represent their party on the November general election ballot (not to mention the Independence Party), no reliable matchup polling exists as of yet to know which party, if any, enters the race on the inside track.

In fact, all major political analysts are currently handicapping the Minnesota gubernatorial race as a 'toss-up' (CQ, Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, Larry Sabato), and the DFL therefore runs a real risk once again of extending their gubernatorial electoral drought for another four years, from 24 to 28 years.

The novelty of this drought occurring in a state as blue as Minnesota is quite striking. Here's why:

· Minnesota is currently 1 of 24 states in the nation with a Republican governor in office.

· Of these 24 states, Minnesota is 1 of 11 that voted for Barack Obama in 2008: California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

· Of these 11 states, Minnesota is 1 of 8 that is represented in the U.S. Senate by two Democrats (or independents caucusing with the Democrats): California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. (One other state helmed by a Republican governor also has two Democratic U.S. Senators - North Dakota, which voted for John McCain in 2008).

· Of these 8 states, Minnesota is 1 of 7 that also has a Democratic-controlled state legislature as well as a Democratic majority in its respective delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

· Of these 7 states, Democrats are poised to take back the governor's office in 5 of them in 2010, according to projections by several leading political analysts: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

That means if the DFL fails to win the Gopher State's gubernatorial contest this November, Minnesota could very well be 1 of just 2 states in the nation with a Republican governor and Democratic-led delegations to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State Senate, and State House.

While Election Day is still more than seven months away (and the DFL still has to earn its majorities to the US House and state legislature), it is already apparent that there are not too many states that would likely end up joining New Jersey (and potentially Minnesota) in this unusual club.

· For example, even if the Republican Party should hold its gubernatorial seat in Florida, Democrats are not likely to win the open U.S. Senate seat, nor will they end up in control the GOP-dominated state legislature or the state delegation to the U.S. House.

· And even if the GOP should win the open gubernatorial seat in Iowa, Republican Charles Grassley will more than likely hold onto his U.S. Senate seat to take the Hawkeye State out of the running.

· And if Republicans pick up the open gubernatorial seat in Michigan, the GOP is unlikely to lose hold of its advantage in the Michigan Senate.

· Republicans could win Ted Strickland's seat in Ohio, but will almost assuredly not lose hold of their large advantage in the Ohio Senate.

· And while the GOP could pick up the open gubernatorial seats in Colorado and Pennsylvania, should they do so they are also equally likely to pick up U.S. Senate seats in those states this November.

· In Wisconsin, Republicans stand a strong chance to win the open governor's race. However, should they do so, their strong performance at the top of the ticket would likely mean they would also take back either the State Senate or Assembly, both of which currently have narrow Democratic majorities. (Not to mention what a potential Tommy Thompson candidacy might do to Russ Feingold's chances to win another term in the U.S. Senate).

· That leaves Illinois which finds Democrat Pat Quinn struggling to retain his gubernatorial seat, but also Republican Mark Kirk as a strong candidate to pick-up the open U.S. Senate seat for the GOP.

Should all these scenarios play out, which is possible but unknowable at this point in time, Minnesota's membership in the scarcely populated Lonely Republican Governors Club would add yet another chapter to the already very colorful political history the Gopher State has written over the past few decades.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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