Minnesota State Senate Election Analysis: DFL Thoroughly Dominates Republicans
The DFL expanded its lead in the Minnesota State Senate from 38-29 to 44-23, after picking up eight seats and giving back two in this month’s election. The DFL has now not only nearly doubled the number of GOP seats in the Senate, but has also more strongly situated itself to pick up even more seats in 2010 before redistricting.
Overall, 55.3% of Minnesotans who voted in State Senate races voted for DFL candidates, compared to 43.3% for Republicans. This 12-point differential is the largest margin in the DFL’s favor since 1992 when the DFL garnered 55.6% to the GOP’s 43.2%.
The DFL’s strong position in the State Senate lies not only in the number of seats won, but also by the strength of their victories: the DFL won nearly as many seats by more than 30 points (22) as the number of seats Republicans won overall (23).
For example, the DFL won 10 seats by between 50 and 99 points, compared to none for the GOP (both parties ran one candidate unopposed by the other party).
The DFL also won 11 more “very uncompetitive” races, decided by between 30 and 49 points, compared to none for the Republicans.
The GOP held on to 13 “weakly competitive” Republican-controlled districts, decided by between 11 and 29 points, compared to 11 for the DFL. The GOP also held onto 7 “competitive” Republican-controlled districts, decided by between 0 and 10 points, compared to just 5 for the DFL. In other words, Republicans are protecting a greater number of precariously held districts.
Lastly, both Republican pickups in 2006 were very narrowly won (1.7 and 2.7 points) whereas most of the DFL’s eight pickups were decided by larger margins: 1.2, 4.3, 4.4, 5.9, 6.3, 7.3, 10.5 and 11.4 points.
Third Party Vacuum
Third party candidates were not much of a factor in 2006 with only 1.4% of votes cast for the State Senate going to non major party candidates, the lowest total since 1990 (0.4%). Only nine third party or independent candidates were even on the ballot in 2006, although all of these candidates did perform strongly in their respective districts—each winning at least 5.6% of the vote.
What do you think about the three-cycle trend regarding close races (within 5 points) in the Minnesota legisative races?
2002 – 11 close races (1 won by the DFL)
2004 – 23 close races (12 won by the DFL)
2006 – 24 close races (16 won by the DFL)
Is this a sign that the state is swinging back to its historic DFL strength? Or that the the DFL has a better ground game than the Republicans? President Bush’s falling popularity? All three? Some? None?
I think this could be a sign of many things, including the decline of the Independence Party, which is not fielding as many candidates these days. Of the three points you listed above, I would speculate Bush’s low popularity was likely the biggest factor in 2006 to motivate voters to vote against the GOP in races in the lower positions on the ballot (like State House / Senate).