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Wisconsin Poised to Extend Competitive Gubernatorial Election Streak

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Wisconsin is expected to join Rhode Island, Iowa, and Minnesota on Tuesday for the only states currently with four or more consecutive elections decided by single digits

scottwalker11.jpgWith virtually every public opinion poll on Wisconsin's recall election this year showing a single-digit lead for Scott Walker - some inside and some outside the poll's margin of error - Tuesday's gubernatorial race is almost assured to be another close race in the Badger State.

Over the last three gubernatorial elections Wisconsin ranks #5 in the nation for closest election results with an average margin of victory of just 5.6 points trailing only Minnesota (3.1 points), Oregon (4.1 points), Rhode Island (4.7 points), and Maine (5.1 points).

Wisconsin's inaugural Barrett vs. Walker matchup in 2010 was decided by 5.8 points after Democrat Jim Doyle won by 3.7 points in 2002 and 7.4 points in 2006.

The most recent public opinion poll found Walker ahead of Democratic challenger Tom Barrett by just three points - 50 to 47 percent.

If the race is decided by single digits, Wisconsin would join Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Iowa as the only states with at least four consecutive gubernatorial races decided by less than 10 points.

Rhode Island has a current streak of five such elections with its race for governor decided by single digits in 1994 (3.8 points), 1998 (8.8 points), 2002 (9.5 points), 2006 (2.0 points), and 2010 (2.5 points).

Minnesota and Iowa have seen their last four such contests decided by single digits.

Wisconsin has previously experienced similar periods of very competitive elections among the two major parties for its top executive post.

From 1855 to 1861, four consecutive elections were decided by single digits by an average of 3.9 points with Democrats winning in 1855 (0.2 points) and the GOP winning in 1857 (0.5 points), 1859 (6.6 points), and 1861 (8.4 points).

After a blowout Republican victory during the middle of the Civil War in 1863, the Badger State saw Republicans carry four more consecutive races by single digits in 1865 (9.4 points), 1867 (3.4 points), 1869 (6.3 points), and 1871 (6.4 points).

From 1881 to 1892, six consecutive races were decided by less than 10 points: Republicans won the first four in 1881 (7.0 points), 1884 (6.0 points), 1886 (6.5 points), and 1888 (5.7 points) with the Democrats claiming victory in 1890 (9.2 points) and 1892 (2.0 points).

But the most competitive stretch for gubernatorial races in state history occurred from 1954 though 1970 when nine consecutive contests were decided by single digits.

Republicans won in 1954 (3.1 points), 1956 (3.8 points), 1964 (1.2 points), 1966 (7.4 points), and 1968 (6.1 points) with Democrats winning in 1958 (7.3 points), 1960 (3.2 points), 1962 (1.0 points), and 1970 (9.3 points).

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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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