This is an admittedly premature question to be sure—with more than one year before the first presidential primary and only a few politicians from each party officially declaring themselves as candidates for the White House. Nonetheless, in the coming months political strategists and party activists will descend on both Wisconsin and Minnesota to rally voters to their cause.
Despite trending Democratic in recent years, both states are definitely still bonafide battlegrounds. An analysis of major statewide elections for President, Governor, and US Senator over the past 45 years indicates the GOP is certainly capable of picking off either one of these states in a presidential race.
Minnesota has voted Democratic for president in 11 of the last 12 presidential elections since 1960, including each of the last 8. However, 5 of these democratic wins were by very narrow margins—decided by less than 4 percentage points.
Wisconsin has voted Democratic in 7 of the last 12 races. While each of the last 5 presidential elections has gone to the Democrats in the Badger state, 4 of these 5 have been very competitive—decided by less than 5 percentage points.
Though it would appear the GOP would fare better in Wisconsin, in US Senate races Republicans have been more successful making inroads in Minnesota—winning 7 of the last 17 races. In Wisconsin Democrats have won 14 of the last 16.
Furthermore, despite tilting blue in presidential elections, both states have been more apt to vote Republican executives into office. Since 1960 Minnesota has voted for more Republican governors (7) than Democrats (5). Republicans (8) also have the slight edge over Democrats (7) for gubernatorial races in Wisconsin.
In sum, voters in Wisconsin and Minnesota can both be swayed to vote Republican in notable statewide elections. Since 1960 each state has voted Republican exactly 15 times in races for president, governor, and US Senator. While oddsmakers would likely make a generic Democratic candidate the favorite today, if a strong, moderate Republican can win the GOP nomination, Democrats can expect a fierce battle in both states.