No Democrat has won the White House without carrying Minnesota since Woodrow Wilson 1916

The limited sample size of having just one presidential election every four years means that political analysts, prognosticators, and historians often have to get creative when looking at trends to point to the key state a presidential nominee needs to carry to win the office in a given election cycle.

Ohio has famously become that state for the GOP because no Republican has won the White House without Ohio since the formation of the party in the mid-1850s: all 24 cycles in which a Republican nominee won the presidency, that nominee carried Ohio.

During the 2020 cycle, there has been increasing chatter that the Trump campaign is making a concerted effort to flip Minnesota, which the president lost by 1.5 points in 2016.

With fewer targets of opportunity than Joe Biden and the Democrats, it makes sense that Trump would invest in Minnesota to expand his electoral map, even though it is the state with the longest current Democratic winning streak in presidential elections and the longest outside the South in U.S. history (11 cycles since 1976).

Just as it is difficult to imagine Trump winning the presidency without Ohio, it is also equally hard to envision a Biden victory if he loses Minnesota.

In fact, no Democratic presidential nominee has won the White House without carrying Minnesota since 1916, when Republican Supreme Court Justice Charles Hughes defeated President Woodrow Wilson by 389 votes in the state.

Minnesota – along with Massachusetts and Rhode Island – are the only states to have backed all 12 successful Democratic presidential campaigns since Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.

No other state has cast its Electoral College votes for more than the last seven Democratic victors with Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania doing so beginning with John Kennedy in 1960.

Ohio and Wisconsin (and Washington, D.C.) have backed the last six Democratic winners since 1964.

But how telling is this finding?

It should be noted that 11 states have voted for winning Republican presidential nominees in longer streaks than Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island for the Democrats.

In addition to Ohio, every victorious GOP nominee has carried Indiana since 1880 (19 in a row), North Dakota since 1896 (17), Kansas, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming since 1900 (16), Idaho and Montana since 1904 (15), and Arizona and Nebraska since 1920 (13).

Of the three states listed above, Minnesota has been the only battleground or ‘purple’ state in presidential elections over the last three decades.

And during the last 12 times Democrats have won the presidency, its nominee has carried Minnesota by an average of 14.1 points compared to 19.0 points in Massachusetts and 23.2 points in Rhode Island.

All three states have also cast its Electoral College votes for Democratic nominees in several cycles won by Republicans: Massachusetts and Rhode Island have done so eight times since 1900 with seven for Minnesota.

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  1. Nikoli Orr on September 13, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    If members of congress (read: senators) were required to resign their seats – at least upon becoming the party presidential nominee – I gather the dynamics of presidential nomination battles would be drastically altered; many more contenders would emerge from the federal cabinet, state governments, and the private sector. [ Charles Evans Hughes, whether legally required to or otherwise, RESIGNED his lifetime seat when he formally became the nominee and, hence, did not stand for the close 1916 election as a sitting jurist, in contrast to Warren Harding in 1920 and other federal legislators who followed his route. ]

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