Upper Midwestern Democrats Could Make Historic US House Gains in 2016

Democrats could pick off five of the 11 Republican-held seats held in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (46 percent) – the second highest rate for the party in history

democratlogo20While it is unlikely that control of the U.S. House will be in play this November, Democrats are expecting to make significant inroads into the five-dozen seat advantage Republicans currently hold in the chamber.

Some of those gains are nearly certain to be made in the Upper Midwest, where Democrats are eying five seats in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Democrats are slightly favored to win Minnesota’s open 2nd Congressional District (held by retiring Republican John Kline) and Iowa’s 1st CD (held by freshman GOPer Rod Blum).

Two other Republican-held seats are considered ‘toss-ups’ at the moment: Iowa’s 3rd CD (held by freshman David Young) and Wisconsin’s open 8th CD (held by retiring Reid Ribble).

Democrats are also pushing to win Minnesota’s moderate 3rd CD where four-term Republican Erik Paulsen is slightly favored against long-serving DFL State Senator Terri Bonoff.

[The best pick-up opportunity for Republicans in the region is in Minnesota’s 8th CD rematch between Rick Nolan and Stewart Mills – a seat Nolan is projected to hold].

Of course, nearly everything would have to go right for Democrats to claim victory in each of these five competitive districts, but the party is optimistic that high turnout in a presidential election cycle combined with concerns about Donald Trump at the top of the ticket will help ensure several victories. [Note: Trump has thus far demonstrated noticeably more statewide support in Iowa than in Minnesota and Wisconsin].

If Democrats do achieve a clean sweep of these five seats, the 2016 cycle will go down as one of the most successful for the party in U.S. House elections across this tri-state region.

For starters, it has been 42 years since the last time Democrats netted five U.S. House seats in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

In the 1974 post-Watergate landslide, Democrats knocked out Bill Scherle (IA-05), Wiley Mayne (IA-06), Vernon Thomson (WI-03), and Harold Froehlich (WI-08) while also winning John Zwach’s open seat (MN-06).

The party gained 49 seats nationally in the 1974 cycle.

Democrats have collectively gained more than five U.S. House seats in these three states in four other cycles:

  • 1882: 7 seats (three in Iowa, four in Wisconsin) [Note: five seats were added to these states after reapportionment].
  • 1890: 14 seats (five in Iowa, three in Minnesota, six in Wisconsin)
  • 1932: 10 seats (five in Iowa, one in Minnesota, four in Wisconsin)
  • 1964: 6 seats (five in Iowa, one in Wisconsin)

The party gained 59, 86, 97, and 37 seats across the country in these four cycles respectively.

Democrats also gained five seats in 1948 (three in Minnesota, two in Wisconsin) and 1958 (three in Iowa, two in Wisconsin) en route to national gains of 75 and 49 seats.

However, in each of the seven cycles mentioned above in which Democrats won at least five seats across these three states, the region had more seats than the 20 they currently hold in D.C. today: 25 in 1882 and 1890, 28 in 1932, 27 in 1948 and 1958, 25 in 1964, and 23 in 1974.

So how would 2016 rate if Democrats do gain these five seats?

Accounting for both the total number of U.S. House seats in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as well as the number of available seats not already held by the party entering Election Day, a five-seat pick-up in November would tie for the second largest gain in party history in these states.

Democrats currently hold nine of the 20 U.S. House seats in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin; adding five more would win them 45.5 percent of the available 11 they do not hold.

That rate of victory has only been eclipsed once – in 1890.

During that cycle, Democrats gained 14 of the available 22 seats held by other parties in these states (63.6 percent).

In 1974, Democrats also picked off five of the 11 seats held by the GOP (45.5 percent).

The party has gained more than 30 percent of available seats in four other cycles: 30.4 percent in 1882 (7 of 25 seats), 33.3 percent in 2006 (4 of 12), 37.5 percent in 1964 (6 of 16), and 38.5 percent in 1932 (10 of 26).

One additional note: if Democrats are victorious in the five districts they currently hold in Minnesota and pick up the 2nd and 3rd CDs, Republicans will drop to one U.S. House seat in the Gopher State for the first time since the Election of 1890.

Since Republicans won their first U.S. House seats in Iowa during the 1856 cycle, the party has been held to just one seat twice – after the Elections of 1964 and 1974.

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1 Comment on "Upper Midwestern Democrats Could Make Historic US House Gains in 2016"

  1. 1. It is noteworthy that the Rs did not suffer a “historic” loss of House seats in the region in 1912 – a year in which FOUR general election contenders took at least 5% of the national popular vote (perhaps “Drumpf” may turn out to be no more of an anvil on his party’s House nominees than WHT was then).

    2. Barring a “thumpin'” of historic proportions, “Drumpf” is more likely than not to carry the 6 EC votes of IA; unlike its “Upper Midwest” neighbours, it has a miniscule share of Latino and black voters, nor does it have a large metropolis (e.g. Detroit) or two (e.g. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia).

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