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Can Mark Dayton Reach 50% in 2014?

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The state with the lowest level of voter support for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the 20th and 21st Centuries is...Minnesota?

markdayton10.jpgHis job approval ratings are well above water.

His Republican competition is currently scant for next year's election.

And there is no sign yet that a high profile third party candidate will emerge to undercut DFL (and Republican) support in the race.

However, if history is any guide, it still may be a challenge for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to win an outright majority of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

A Smart Politics review of gubernatorial election data finds that Minnesota is tied for the fifth longest streak in the nation in which the Democratic Party has failed to win a majority of the vote in the race for governor.

The last Minnesota Democratic governor to reach the 50 percent mark was Rudy Perpich in his victorious 1986 reelection bid (56.1 percent).

That leaves the party with a six-cycle drought - tied with Connecticut (1986), North Dakota (1986), and Mississippi (1987) for the fifth longest in the nation.

Only South Dakota (1974, 9 cycles), Utah (1980, 9 cycles), Maine (1982, 7 cycles), and Texas (1982, 7 cycles) have gone longer without a Democratic governor winning majority support from its voters.

By contrast, 29 states have gone no more than one cycle without a Democratic winning its governor's mansion with 50+ percent of the vote.

A partial explanation for this phenomenon in the Gopher State is, of course, the prominent role third parties have played off and on over the last century.

Minnesota has had the third largest support for third party gubernatorial candidates in the nation since 1980 (10.7 percent), behind only Maine (29.8 percent) and Alaska (17.8 percent).

However, that hasn't stopped Minnesota Republicans from winning a majority of the vote in gubernatorial races twice during this span (Arne Carlson in 1990, 1994).

In fact, while Minnesota is generally regarded as a light blue state today, a longer historical view reveals Minnesota as the state with the the lowest level of support for Democratic gubernatorial candidates throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries - at just 35.1 percent during its 44 contests since 1900.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates in only five other states fail to reach the 40 percent mark for their century-plus average: North Dakota (38.8 percent), Wisconsin (39.1 percent), Vermont (39.2 percent), California (39.3 percent), and South Dakota (39.6 percent).

Third parties have averaged 16.8 percent of the vote in Minnesota during this 110+ year span - tops in the nation, with Republican candidates averaging 48.1 percent (23rd in the nation).

To date, only five Democrats have ever reached the 50 percent mark in Minnesota gubernatorial elections: Henry Sibley (1857), John Johnson (1906, 1908), Orville Freeman (1954, 1956, 1958), Wendell Anderson (1970, 1974), and Rudy Perpich (1982, 1986).

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Failing to Win 50 Percent of the Vote by State

State
Last race > 50%
Cycles
South Dakota
1974
9
Utah
1980
9
Maine
1982
7
Texas
1982
7
Connecticut
1986
6
Minnesota
1986
6
Mississippi
1987
6
North Dakota
1988
6
Idaho
1990
5
Rhode Island
1992
5
Florida
1994
4
Nebraska
1994
4
Nevada
1994
4
Alabama
1998
3
Alaska
1998
3
Georgia
1998
3
South Carolina
1998
3
Indiana
2000
3
Illinois
2002
2
Louisiana
2003
2
Wisconsin
2006
2
New Jersey
2005
1
Virginia
2005
1
Arizona
2006
1
Iowa
2006
1
Kansas
2006
1
Massachusetts
2006
1
Michigan
2006
1
New Mexico
2006
1
Ohio
2006
1
Oklahoma
2006
1
Oregon
2006
1
Pennsylvania
2006
1
Tennessee
2006
1
Wyoming
2006
1
Montana
2008
1
North Carolina
2008
1
West Virginia
2008
1
Arkansas
2010
0
California
2010
0
Colorado
2010
0
Hawaii
2010
0
Maryland
2010
0
New York
2010
0
Kentucky
2011
0
Delaware
2012
0
Missouri
2012
0
New Hampshire
2012
0
Vermont
2012
0
Washington
2012
0
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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Previous post: The Most Competitive States for Gubernatorial Elections Since 1900
Next post: Tom Cotton's Quandary: Can House Freshmen Win Senate Seats?

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Remains of the Data

Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

Political Crumbs

Haugh to Reach New Heights

The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


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).


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