Earlier this month Smart Politics examined how a victory by Norm Coleman would mark the first time since 1940 that a Republican has been elected Senator from the Gopher State in a presidential election year in which a Democrat was sent to the White House.
That study examined the Coleman victory against the backdrop of the national political environment. But when examining other measures that capture the political temperature of the 2008 election within the Gopher State, a strong case can be made that a Coleman victory would be the most remarkable GOP U.S. Senate triumph in Minnesota history.
Since popular vote U.S. Senate elections began in Minnesota in 1912, the state has elected 4 Republicans to the Senate whilst also casting its electoral votes for the Democratic presidential nominee. Three of those cases involved incumbent GOP Senators, like Coleman in 2008: Dave Durenberger in 1988 (3rd term), Rudy Boschwitz in 1984 (2nd term), and Henrik Shipstead in 1940 (4th term).
But if Coleman retains his Senate seat, he would have emerged victorious in the face of a much tougher hurdle at the top of the ticket:
· In 2008, Barack Obama carried Minnesota by 10.2 points.
· In 1988, Michael Dukakis won Minnesota by 7.0 points.
· In 1984, Walter Mondale carried Minnesota by 0.2 points.
· In 1940, FDR won Minnesota by 3.8 points.
The only other instance in which a Republican was elected U.S. Senator in a year in which the Gopher State supported a Democratic presidential nominee was 1936. However, in that year (in which FDR carried the Gopher State by 30.8 points), Minnesota had two Senate elections on the ballot. Republican Guy V. Howard won the special election to serve out only the last two months of the term ending January 3, 1937 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Republican Thomas D. Schall on December 22, 1935. (Farmer-Laborite Ernest Lundeen won the regular election).
In other words, a Coleman victory would mark the first time in Gopher State history that a Republican candidate won a full-term U.S. Senate seat whilst the state cast its electoral votes for a Democrat by double-digits.
There is also a second measure by which a Coleman victory would be historically “odds-defying,�? and that is evident by examining the balance of power in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The 2008 election will give the DFL a 40-seat advantage in the House, 87 to 47 seats. No Republican has been elected Senator in light of such a lopsided state legislative landslide in favor of the DFL since that party’s merger in 1944.
In three previous elections, GOP Senators were elected in the face of DFL majorities down the ballot in legislative House races across the state:
· In 1994, Republican Rod Grams won election while the DFL carried the House by 8 seats, 71 to 63.
· In 1988, Dave Durenberger won a third term as the DFL garnered a 28-seat advantage in the House, 81 to 53.
· In 1982, Durenberger won his second term in the face of a 20-seat DFL advantage statewide, 77 to 57 seats.
In light of this historical evidence, if Norm Coleman emerges victorious from the recount in the face of a double-digit win in Minnesota by Barack Obama and a 40-seat throttling of the GOP in state legislative races, the Senator can probably lay claim to the most impressive Senate victory for a Republican in Gopher State history.