Can Mark Dayton Reach 50% in 2014?

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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2 Comments on "Can Mark Dayton Reach 50% in 2014?"

  1. 1. Unlike similar states farther south (along the W 100th Meridian) NDakota holds its gubernatorial elections to coincide with presidential elections (’88 was the most recent occasion the D Nonpartisan League even won an election for that post).
    2. It is noteworthy that Arne Carlson twice won statewide in spite of the fact that he actually lost the initial (1990 R) primary, and only became the substitute nominee mere days before that fateful electiion. Also, on neither time did he win the official endorsement of the state party, though the attendees to the (endorsing) statewide party conventions tend to skew way farther to the right than the general or even R primary electorate.
    3. Prior to the mid-1940s, the D party here apparently was only slightly larger than the Libertarian Party of today. That fact goes a long way toward explaining the “lowest level of support” for its nominees (and hence the genesis for the merger with the Farmer-Labor Party).

    • RE: #3. Democrats did struggle mightily in the 1920s & 1930s, however, unlike the Libertarians, they would win the occasional notable election. For example, in U.S. House elections, Einar Hoidale was victorious in 1932 (at-large) and Elmer Ryan in 1934, 1936, and 1938 (2nd CD).

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