20 May 2013

The Minnesota / Wisconsin symbiosis in electoral politics


Foreword: a RED symbiosis

As all 51 political bios were published in 2011, looking toward the 2012 GE, I noted a  very specific symbiotic relationship between two very red states: Kansas and Nebraska. The reasons for this symbiosis were noted in both reports, and it showed most clearly in the 2008 GE, where Kansas was the 11th most conservative state and Nebraska was the 10th most conservative state in the partisan rankings. In fact, in 2008, McCain won Kansas by +14.92% and Nebraska by +14.93% in that year. That is a 0.01% difference in margin! Wow. Again, in 2012, Kansas and Nebraska were next to each other in the partisan rankings, with Kansas the 10th most conservative state (Romney +21.72%) and Nebraska the 9th most conservative state (Romney +21.78%), with only a 0.06% difference in margin!

Minnesota and Wisconsina BLUE symbiosis




Now, coming off the 2012 re-election of President Obama, I spent time during the last 6 months mulling over and studying the electoral history of two now very blue states (Minnesota and Wisconsin), which also have a very, very symbiotic relationship, once you have worked through the numbers. Most political scientists are in agreement that this kind of symbiosis has to do with common history, common demographics, common social foundations and common geography. It is no wonder that, as is the case with Kansas and Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin are neighboring states.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, advisors to Mitt Romney (R), based on advice from his statistical team, encouraged him to make a strong play for the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin in order to widen the electoral map for the Republican party. I must say that, based strictly on the numbers and what they represent, I understand why the GOP statisticians gave this kind of advice and had I been a player for their team, I probably would have given the same advice.

So, before I delve into both of these states, a reminder: although I am a strongly partisan Democrat, my numbers analyses are always impassionate and totally fair. I make no judgements based on issues or events at all, but rather, I go strictly with the numbers. My source for the base numbers is from Dave Leips uselectionatlas.org, which has now become the de facto gold standard for electoral information. Dave Leip himself is neither a Republican nor a Democrat - his leanings are libertarian. His site is devoted to absolute correct numbers from county to county, in presidential and senatorial elections, down to 1/100th of a percentage point.

So, what I am going to do, starting with MINNESOTA, is to build a table of numbers, one column after another, and show how the simple math works. Along the way, certain terms will come into play. They will be defined as they come along and then repeated for the WISCONSIN part of the analysis.

For people of all political persuasions, this will be enjoyable reading, if you take time to go through this step-by-step with me.

So, here is the start of the Minnesota table, showing only the winning percentage margins going all the way back to 1932:



State margin
2012*
+7.69%
2008
+10.24%
2004*
+3.48%
2000
+2.40%
1996*
+16.14%
1992*
+11.63%
1988
+7.02%
1984*
+0.18%
1980*
+3.94%
1976
+12.87%
1972*
+5.51%
1968
+12.53%
1964
+27.76%
1960
+1.43%
1956*
+7.60%
1952
+11.22%
1948
+17.27%
1944*
+5.55%
1940*
+3.83%
1936*
+30.83%
1932
+23.62%
The * next to the year denotes a pure re-election cycle.
 Blue = democratic margin, Red = Republican margin. Bolded = landslide margin

From 1932 to 2012, a span of 80 years, there have been 21 elections cycles. 

We can see from the table that the Democratic candidate for President has won Minnesota for 18 of the last 21 cycles. A Republican candidate has won Minnesota for 3 of the last 21 cycles: it went twice for Eisenhower (1952 and 1956) and for Nixon's re-election in 1972. This makes Minnesota a 10-for-10 Democratic state, having been carried by the Democratic presidential candidate for the last 10 unbroken cycles in a row. Aside from DC, which is now a 13-for-13 "state", Minnesota has the longest contiguous Democratic electoral history at the current time.  

From the chart, we also see that the state has gone reliably for a Democratic incumbent President every time since 1936: FDR in 1936, 1940, 1944 / Truman in 1948 / Johnson in 1964 / Carter in 1980 /  Clinton in 1996 and Obama in 2012. As John King is known to say on CNN, this state has a very deep "blue DNA".

Let's add the national margin for all of those years to the table:

State margin
National margin
2012*
+7.69%
+3.85%
2008
+10.24%
+7.26%
2004*
+3.48%
+2.46%
2000
+2.40%
+0.52%**
1996*
+16.14%
+8.52%
1992*
+11.63%
+5.56%
1988
+7.02%
+7.73%
1984*
+0.18%
+18.22%
1980*
+3.94%
+9.74%
1976
+12.87%
+2.06%
1972*
+5.51%
+23.15%
1968
+12.53%
+0.70%
1964
+27.76%
+22.58%
1960
+1.43%
+0.16%
1956*
+7.60%
+15.40%
1952
+11.22%
+10.85%
1948
+17.27%
+4.48%
1944*
+5.55%
+7.49%
1940*
+3.83%
+9.95%
1936*
+30.83%
+24.25%
1932
+23.62%
+17.76%
Any row where the colors do not match up indicate a year where one party won the state and another party won the national election. This shows up clearly in all cases EXCEPT 2000, where you see +0.52% in blue for the national margin, but George W. Bush (R) won the election. This is because Al Gore (D) won in the national popular vote (NPV), but Bush won in the Electoral College. Without doing any additional math, you may notice that in every cycle where a Democrat won Minnesota (excepting 1940 and 1944), that candidate won Minnesota with a LARGER margin than the Democratic national margin. 

Any state where the candidates margin is larger than his winning national margin is obviously part of the "engine" that got him to that national margin, when you average all 51 electoral units together. Conversely, any state that a winning national candidate won with a margin SMALLER than his national margin -and all states that he lost - would put a "drag" on his national margin. 

The PULL

If we take the state margin from a cycle and subtract the national margin, the value we come up with is commonly called the "Pull". This is where things start to get interesting:


State margin
National margin
„pull“
2012*
+7.69%
+3.85%
D +3.84
2008
+10.24%
+7.26%
D +2.98
2004*
+3.48%
+2.46%
D +5.94
2000
+2.40%
+0.52%**
D +1.88
1996*
+16.14%
+8.52%
D +7.62
1992*
+11.63%
+5.56%
D +6.07
1988
+7.02%
+7.73%
D +14.75
1984*
+0.18%
+18.22%
D +18.40
1980*
+3.94%
+9.74%
D +13.68
1976
+12.87%
+2.06%
D +10.81
1972*
+5.51%
+23.15%
D +17.64
1968
+12.53%
+0.70%
D +13.23
1964
+27.76%
+22.58%
D +5.18
1960
+1.43%
+0.16%
D +1.27
1956*
+7.60%
+15.40%
D +7.80
1952
+11.22%
+10.85%
R +0.37
1948
+17.27%
+4.48%
D +12.79
1944*
+5.55%
+7.49%
R +1.94
1940*
+3.83%
+9.95%
R +6.12
1936*
+30.83%
+24.25%
D +6.58
1932
+23.62%
+17.76%
D +5.86

The pull value is always listed as a positive value, so a negative value from a Democratic election would be listed as a Republican positive value and visa-versa.  Let's just take 2012 as an example:

President Obama carried Minnesota and it's 10 electoral votes in 2012 by a +7.69% margin over Mitt Romney. Nationally, he beat Mitt Romney by +3.85%. 7.69 - 3.85 = a democratic pull of 3.84. Or you can say that Minnesota voted 3.84% more Democratic than the nation. Please notice that the "pull" values are Democratic all the way back to 1952. 

Now, looking at 1988, for example, you may say, how do I come up with a value of D +14.75? That is because a margin in one color is a negative value for another color. In 1988, Dukakis carried Minnesota by +7.02%, but George H.W. Bush won nationally by +7.73%. A Bush +7.73 = a Dukakis -7.73, so:

7.02 - (-7.73) = 14.75. This means that Minnesota voted 14.75% more Democratic than the national margin (a Republican national margin, remember) in that year.

Why is this important? Well, take a very close look at both 1984 and 1972.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan won nationally by a whalloping +18.22% margin, not the largest margin in our Union's history, but probably the most evenly spread out over the country, except in Minnesota and DC. Since Walter Mondale (who was from Minnesota, to whit) won his home state by +0.18%, the state pulled 18.40% against the Republican national margin. In other words, an 18 point national win was still not enough for Reagan to pull Minnesota "over the line" and into the GOP column. Remember that pull value: D +18.40.

Now, look at 1972: Richard Nixon won nationally by a massive +23.15% margin (and still to date, the largest raw vote margin in our history) and indeed he won Minnesota, but only by 5.51%. In fact, Minnesota was Nixon's leanest victory in 1972, which means that McGovern did statistically better in DC, MA (both of which he won), MN and RI than in his home state of SD (all of which he lost). But here it gets really interesting: look at the pull. This time, the pull is D +17.64, not far away from the D +18.40 value from 1984. So, the conventional wisdom among GOP statisticians over a long time was that a Republican needed around a +19 to +20 win nationally in order to capture Minnesota. In 1988, the pull was somewhat smaller (D +14.75), but starting in 1992, the "pull" became much, much smaller. At first, the thought was that the three-way nature of the presidential races in 1992 and 1996 may have affected this number, but in 2000, during an exceedingly close election, the pull was miniscule, just D +1.88. Surely this is part of the reason why the Bush 2004 campaign decided to make a play for Minnesota, in spite of his electoral history, but the pull in Minnesota actually GREW in 2004 over 2000. After the Obama landslide win in Minnesota (the first since Clinton in 1996), with an embattled Democratic incumbent on the ballot in 2012 and measurable demographic shift in Minnesota as more and more people are moving from the Blizzard-belt-states down to the Sunbelt-states, surely the Romney team saw an average pull between 2000, 2004 and 2008 of not more than 4 points and reasoned that were Mitt Romney to win nationally by at least +4, then logically (a rising tide lifts all boats...) he could carry Minnesota. As we know, it did not work out that way, but had Romney won nationally, it would have indeed been interesting to see what would have happened in this Democratic bastion.

The SWING

There is another easy mathematical way to measure a state's performance, this time only comparing it to  itself. This is called the "partisan shift", or more commonly, the "SWING". You simply take the winning margin from one cycle and subtract that state's margin from the cycle directly before, and there you have the swing:


State margin
National margin
„pull“
State „swing“
2012*
+7.69%
+3.85%
D +3.84
R +2.55
2008
+10.24%
+7.26%
D +2.98
D +6.76
2004*
+3.48%
+2.46%
D +5.94
D +1.08
2000
+2.40%
+0.52%**
D +1.88
R +13.14
1996*
+16.14%
+8.52%
D +7.62
D +4.51
1992*
+11.63%
+5.56%
D +6.07
D +4.61
1988
+7.02%
+7.73%
D +14.75
D +6.84
1984*
+0.18%
+18.22%
D +18.40
R +3.76
1980*
+3.94%
+9.74%
D +13.68
R +8.93
1976
+12.87%
+2.06%
D +10.81
D +18.38
1972*
+5.51%
+23.15%
D +17.64
R +18.04
1968
+12.53%
+0.70%
D +13.23
R +15.23
1964
+27.76%
+22.58%
D +5.18
D +26.33
1960
+1.43%
+0.16%
D +1.27
D +9.03
1956*
+7.60%
+15.40%
D +7.80
D +3.62
1952
+11.22%
+10.85%
R +0.37
R +28.49
1948
+17.27%
+4.48%
D +12.79
D +11.72
1944*
+5.55%
+7.49%
R +1.94
D +1.72
1940*
+3.83%
+9.95%
R +6.12
R +27.00
1936*
+30.83%
+24.25%
D +6.58
D +7.21
1932
+23.62%
+17.76%
D +5.86
D +40.56


As is the case with the pull-value, the swing is also always represented as a positive value. So, the R +2.55 "Swing" for 2012 is correct. Obama won Minnesota by +7.69% in 2012, but by +10.24% in 2008:

7.69 - 10.24 = -2.55 (for the Democrats) = R +2.55. So, in terms of what happened only within the Minnesota electoral, 2.55% of the margin shifted RIGHT between 2008 and 2012. This is not too surprising when you consider that 45 of 51 "states" shifted LEFT in 2008, and then 45 of 51 "states" shifted RIGHT in 2012.

What do shifts tells us? Well, without some other information, not a whole lot. A big shift value now and then doesn't mean a lot in a vacuum by itself. Take Utah for example: the shift in Utah from 2004 to 2008 was D +17.52, but McCain still won Utah by a massive margin in 2008. Rather, it is the frequency of shifts for one party over the other over a long time that shows which party the state will tend to more. Take a look at the swings over 21 cycles in Minnesota: 13 DEM swings, 8 GOP swings. And more importantly, you have to go all the way back to 1984 to find a Republican incumbent to whom the state swung more toward. (although he still did not win the state).

Of course, if states can have swings, then so can the nation, so here is the table, with the national swings next to the state swings:


State margin
National margin
„pull“
State „swing“
National „swing“
2012*
+7.69%
+3.85%
D +3.84
R +2.55
R +3.41
2008
+10.24%
+7.26%
D +2.98
D +6.76
D +9.72
2004*
+3.48%
+2.46%
D +5.94
D +1.08
R +2.98
2000
+2.40%
+0.52%**
D +1.88
R +13.14
R +8.00
1996*
+16.14%
+8.52%
D +7.62
D +4.51
D +2.96
1992*
+11.63%
+5.56%
D +6.07
D +4.61
D +13.29
1988
+7.02%
+7.73%
D +14.75
D +6.84
D +10.49
1984*
+0.18%
+18.22%
D +18.40
R +3.76
R +8.48
1980*
+3.94%
+9.74%
D +13.68
R +8.93
R +11.80
1976
+12.87%
+2.06%
D +10.81
D +18.38
D +25.21
1972*
+5.51%
+23.15%
D +17.64
R +18.04
R +22.45
1968
+12.53%
+0.70%
D +13.23
R +15.23
R +23.28
1964
+27.76%
+22.58%
D +5.18
D +26.33
D +22.42
1960
+1.43%
+0.16%
D +1.27
D +9.03
D +15.56
1956*
+7.60%
+15.40%
D +7.80
D +3.62
R +4.55
1952
+11.22%
+10.85%
R +0.37
R +28.49
R +15.33
1948
+17.27%
+4.48%
D +12.79
D +11.72
R +3.01
1944*
+5.55%
+7.49%
R +1.94
D +1.72
R +2.46
1940*
+3.83%
+9.95%
R +6.12
R +27.00
R +14.30
1936*
+30.83%
+24.25%
D +6.58
D +7.21
D +6.49
1932
+23.62%
+17.76%
D +5.86
D +40.56
D +35.18

Comparing swings: think of this as mathematically seeing a ball floating within a much larger bowl of water, perhaps even an aquarium. The less water in the ball, the better it floats. When too much water gets into the ball, it sinks into the aquarium. An interesting visual.



Notice that in 19 of 21 cycles, the state swing for Minnesota was toward the same party as the national swing. The exceptions are (and this is important) 2004 and 1956, both Republican re-election years.

The TREND

Just as we are able to compare state margins to the national margin and come up with the so-called "pull", we can also compare state "swings" to the national "swing" and the value that appears, once again, always a positive value, is called the TREND. So, here is now the complete table:


State margin
National margin
„pull“
State „swing“
National „swing“
TREND
2012*
+7.69%
+3.85%
D +3.84
R +2.55
R +3.41
D +0.86
2008
+10.24%
+7.26%
D +2.98
D +6.76
D +9.72
R +2.96
2004*
+3.48%
+2.46%
D +5.94
D +1.08
R +2.98
D +4.06
2000
+2.40%
+0.52%**
D +1.88
R +13.14
R +8.00
R +5.14
1996*
+16.14%
+8.52%
D +7.62
D +4.51
D +2.96
D +1.55
1992*
+11.63%
+5.56%
D +6.07
D +4.61
D +13.29
R +8.68
1988
+7.02%
+7.73%
D +14.75
D +6.84
D +10.49
R +3.65
1984*
+0.18%
+18.22%
D +18.40
R +3.76
R +8.48
D +4.72
1980*
+3.94%
+9.74%
D +13.68
R +8.93
R +11.80
D +2.87
1976
+12.87%
+2.06%
D +10.81
D +18.38
D +25.21
R +6.83
1972*
+5.51%
+23.15%
D +17.64
R +18.04
R +22.45
D +4.41
1968
+12.53%
+0.70%
D +13.23
R +15.23
R +23.28
D +8.05
1964
+27.76%
+22.58%
D +5.18
D +26.33
D +22.42
D +3.91
1960
+1.43%
+0.16%
D +1.27
D +9.03
D +15.56
R +6.53
1956*
+7.60%
+15.40%
D +7.80
D +3.62
R +4.55
D +8.17
1952
+11.22%
+10.85%
R +0.37
R +28.49
R +15.33
R +13.16
1948
+17.27%
+4.48%
D +12.79
D +11.72
R +3.01
D +14.73
1944*
+5.55%
+7.49%
R +1.94
D +1.72
R +2.46
D +4.18
1940*
+3.83%
+9.95%
R +6.12
R +27.00
R +14.30
R +12.70
1936*
+30.83%
+24.25%
D +6.58
D +7.21
D +6.49
D +0.72
1932
+23.62%
+17.76%
D +5.86
D +40.56
D +35.18
D +5.38



As was the case with the state swing, the trend value for Minnesota has been toward the Democratic party in 13 of the last 21 cycles.  We see that since the beginning of the Clinton revolution of 1992, which transformed the Northeast and the West Coast for the Democratic party, the state has trended 4 times Democratic and 2 times Republican, interestingly enough, if you add up the trends for these six cycles and subtract one party's total trends from the other, you come pretty darned close to ZERO:

D: 4.61 + 4.51 + 1.08 + 6.76 = 16.96
R: 13.14 + 2.55 = 15.69

16.96 - 15.69 = D +1.27

In other words, over 20 years, through shifting political winds (or waters, or however you wish to imagine it for yourself), Minnesota has pretty much landed right where it was in 1992 in terms of trends.

Minnesota FACIT (the short form): the GOP statistical team saw the pull numbers from the past, saw those pulls decreasing starting in 1992 and thought they had a chance to turn this state. It didn't pan out, but it was probably worth the effort.

SIDE NOTE: just for comparison, Obama's 2012 margin in Minnesota was almost identical to Mitt Romney's margin in Georgia (Romney +7.80), and yet the media was ready to call Georgia for Romney almost immediately on election night. This is proof that perception and reality are not always the same thing.


WISCONSIN

Here is the table for Wisconsin, all at once, since you now have gone through the process once with Minnesota:


State margin
National margin
„pull“
State „swing“
National „swing“
TREND
2012*
+6.94%
+3.85%
D +3.09
R +6.96
R +3.41
R +3.55
2008
+13.90%
+7.26%
D +6.64
D +13.52
D +9.72
D +3.80
2004*
+0.38%
+2.46%
D +2.84
D +0.16
R +2.98
D +3.14
2000
+0.22%
+0.52%**
R +0.30
R +10.11
R +8.00
R +2.11
1996*
+10.33%
+8.52%
D +1.81
D +5.98
D +2.96
D +3.02
1992*
+4.35%
+5.56%
R +1.21
D +0.73
D +13.29
R +12.56
1988
+3.62%
+7.73%
D +11.35
D +12.80
D +10.49
D +2.31
1984*
+9.18%
+18.22%
D +9.04
R +4.46
R +8.48
D +4.02
1980*
+4.72%
+9.74%
D +5.02
R +6.40
R +11.80
D +5.40
1976
+1.68%
+2.06%
R +0.38
D +11.35
D +25.21
R +13.86
1972*
+9.67%
+23.15%
D +13.48
R +6.05
R +22.45
D +16.40
1968
+3.62%
+0.70%
R +2.92
R +27.97
R +23.28
R +4.69
1964
+24.35%
+22.58%
D +1.77
D +28.07
D +22.42
D +5.65
1960
+3.72%
+0.16%
R +3.88
D +20.02
D +15.56
D +4.46
1956*
+23.74%
+15.40%
R +8.34
R +1.49
R +4.55
D +3.06
1952
+22.25%
+10.85%
R +11.40
R +26.66
R +15.33
R +11.33
1948
+4.41%
+4.48%
R +0.07
D +6.21
R +3.01
D +9.22
1944*
+1.80%
+7.49%
R +9.29
R +2.92
R +2.46
R +0.46
1940*
+1.82%
+9.95%
R +8.13
R +31.72
R +14.30
R +17.42
1936*
+33.54%
+24.25%
D +9.29
D +1.28
D +6.49
R +5.21
1932
+32.26%
+17.76%
D +14.50
D +41.50
D +35.18
D +6.32

So, some takeaways:

Wisconsin is not a 10-for-10 state like Minnesota, but it does share a common voting history back through 1988. It is currently a 7-for-7 Democratic state. Going further into the past, however, we see that it was once a much more Republican state. Dewey won it in 1944. Eisenhower won it in 1952 and 1956. Nixon won it in all three of his presidential campaigns (1960, 1968, 1972). Carter just barely won it for the Democrats in 1976, but it was relatively easy pickings for Reagan in both 1980 and 1984.

What really sets Wisconsin apart are the single digit margins: since 1968 (excepting 1996, 2008), Wisconsin has been a single digit state. Neither Nixon nor Reagan, in spite of massive landslides in 1972 and 1984, were able to secure landslide wins in the Badger state.

Another takeaway: when you look at the pull-values, you could literally break off the list halfway and think that the bottom half is about another state: from 1940 to 1976, the state pulled most of the time for toward the Republican party. Since then, it has pulled most of the time for the Democratic party. Also, the Wisconsin pulls are leaner than the Minnesota pulls.

Wisconsin's two closest presidential ballots in all of history happened back to back: in 2000 and 2004. But notice that the state was able to hand President Obama a very large +13.90% landslide margin in 2008, one of the unsung landslides of that year. If you look at all those single digit margins from 1968 to the present, you will see that Obama's +6.94% is actually in the upper rung of those margins, only behind 2008, 1996, 1972 and 1984, but ahead of 2004, 2000, 1992, 1988, 1980, 1976 and 1968. +6.94% is well out of the margin of error in polling and is outside of the standard +/-5% battleground designation. 

So, why did the GOP also focus on Wisconsin?

Well, other than the fact that is is Paul Ryan's home state, Wisconsin, when you put it side by side next to Minnesota, has tended to vote slightly to the right of the results from Minnesota. Look:


Minnesota / Wisconsin comparison table:

Year
MN margin
WI Margin
MN „pull“
WI „pull“
MN „swing“
WI „swing“
MN TREND
WI TREND
2012*
+7.69%
+6.94%
D +3.84
D +3.09
R +2.55
R +6.96
D +0.86
R +3.55
2008
+10.24%
+13.90%
D +2.98
D +6.64
D +6.76
D +13.52
R +2.96
D +3.80
2004*
+3.48%
+0.38%
D +5.94
D +2.84
D +1.08
D +0.16
D +4.06
D +3.14
2000
+2.40%
+0.22%
D +1.88
R +0.30
R +13.14
R +10.11
R +5.14
R +2.11
1996*
+16.14%
+10.33%
D +7.62
D +1.81
D +4.51
D +5.98
D +1.55
D +3.02
1992*
+11.63%
+4.35%
D +6.07
R +1.21
D +4.61
D +0.73
R +8.68
R +12.56
1988
+7.02%
+3.62%
D +14.75
D +11.35
D +6.84
D +12.80
R +3.65
D +2.31
1984*
+0.18%
+9.18%
D +18.40
D +9.04
R +3.76
R +4.46
D +4.72
D +4.02
1980*
+3.94%
+4.72%
D +13.68
D +5.02
R +8.93
R +6.40
D +2.87
D +5.40
1976
+12.87%
+1.68%
D +10.81
R +0.38
D +18.38
D +11.35
R +6.83
R +13.86
1972*
+5.51%
+9.67%
D +17.64
D +13.48
R +18.04
R +6.05
D +4.41
D +16.40
1968
+12.53%
+3.62%
D +13.23
R +2.92
R +15.23
R +27.97
D +8.05
R +4.69
1964
+27.76%
+24.35%
D +5.18
D +1.77
D +26.33
D +28.07
D +3.91
D +5.65
1960
+1.43%
+3.72%
D +1.27
R +3.88
D +9.03
D +20.02
R +6.53
D +4.46
1956*
+7.60%
+23.74%
D +7.80
R +8.34
D +3.62
R +1.49
D +8.17
D +3.06
1952
+11.22%
+22.25%
R +0.37
R +11.40
R +28.49
R +26.66
R +13.16
R +11.33
1948
+17.27%
+4.41%
D +12.79
R +0.07
D +11.72
D +6.21
D +14.73
D +9.22
1944*
+5.55%
+1.80%
R +1.94
R +9.29
D +1.72
R +2.92
D +4.18
R +0.46
1940*
+3.83%
+1.82%
R +6.12
R +8.13
R +27.00
R +31.72
R +12.70
R +17.42
1936*
+30.83%
+33.54%
D +6.58
D +9.29
D +7.21
D +1.28
D +0.72
R +5.21
1932
+23.62%
+32.26%
D +5.86
D +14.50
D +40.56
D +41.50
D +5.38
D +6.32

This table makes it very clear:

In every cycle since 1940 (excluding 2008), Wisconsin's presidential ballot results have been more to the right of Minnesota's, meaning that when both states went for a Democratic candidate, the Wisconsin margin (excluding 2008) was smaller, and if both states went for a Republican, Wisconsin' margin was larger.

In 1984, 1980, 1968, 1960 and 1944, Minnesota and Wisconsin did not go for the same candidate. In every case, MN went for the Democrat while WI went for the Republican. So, to quote John King from CNN, Wisconsin's "blue DNA" does not run as deep as Minnesota's.  However, WI, which was one of those states that used to be in a winning Republican's column, never once went for a presidential candidate with the name "Bush" - neither in 1988 nor 1992 nor 2000 nor in 2004. So, the case could be made that WI has moved more Democratic than the statistics say.

Unlike Minnesota, which has always gone for the incumbent Democratic candidate since 1936, Wisconsin has turned on a Democratic incumbent twice during this time: in 1944 and in 1980.

Compare the "pull" values for both states: where with MN you see a sea of blue, with WI, there is a lot of red. And once again, since 1940 (and excluding 2008), the pull in WI has been less Democratic / more Republican, respectively, than in Minnesota. In 2012, the pull values between these two states were the closest they have ever been to each other, a detail that I find fascinating. MN's 2012 margin was 3.84 points more than the national, while WI's 2012 margin was 3.09 points above the national margin. So, relative to the national performance, both of these states stayed pretty much the same distance "above water" for Obama.

The Wisconsin trend values are also fascinating when compared to Minnesota: there are a lot more trend values for Wisconsin in double digits (in bold) than for Minnesota. This tells me that the state of Wisconsin has a more volatile electorate, probably more willing to change it's mind.

If the GOP viewed these two states as "low hanging fruit" for 2012, it is clear that Wisconsin was more in reach than Minnesota. When you consider that the state of Ohio has been trending more and more blue ever since 1992, the combined electoral firepower of Minnesota and Wisconsin (20 EV) could offset a loss of Ohio to the Democratic party in future elections. The GOP of the future would do well to continue to invest in these two states in order to offset permanant losses that may happen in other states like New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada (20 EV).

The symbiosis between Minnesota and Wisconsin does not run as deep as that between Kansas and Nebraska, but it is there, if you know how to interpret the historical electoral numbers.

















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