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Minnesota Republicans could be looking at a historic low point in congressional representation

If Democrats win the three U.S. House races in Minnesota that are shaping up to be close, writes Eric Ostermeier, the GOP would hold just a single seat for the first time since 1890. 

Eric Ostermeier notes that if the Democratic candidates win the three U.S. House races that are shaping up to be close this year, Minnesota would have seven out of its eight House seats occupied by Democrats next year.
REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

By at least one measure, it’s possible to argue that Minnesota is the bluest state in the nation. We are the only state that has given its electoral votes to the Democratic nominee in each of the last 10 presidential elections.

Of course, that streak is slightly misleading, because we – very understandably and to our undying credit – gave our electoral votes to favorite son Walter Mondale in 1984, when no other state did (though the District of Columbia gave him its three electoral votes). So all the other solid blue states started their blue streak in 1988, while ours goes back to 1976.

In truth, Minnesota doesn’t lead the nation in the margin for Democratic candidates most cycles, and has elected more than a trickle of (usually moderate) Republicans as governors and senators over recent decades. And it even occasionally has been on the list of potential swing states in some recent cycles, although it has never been fully a member of the actual swing state list. The current division of our delegation to the U.S. House – five Dems and three Repubs – reflects the real division of the state in recent years. (Massachusetts, for one comparative example, has nine Dem and no Repub members of Congress.)

But for most the first half its history as a state, Minnesota was solid red in presidential elections, dating back to before the days when the terminology of red and blue states even existed. In the state’s very first presidential election, in 1860, Republican nominee Abe Lincoln carried Minnesota, and it went Republican (or renegade Republican, going for Teddy Roosevelt in 1912) in 16 straight presidential elections after that — until 1932, when it went for Franklin Roosevelt and flipped to one of the country’s most reliable blue states. Since then, it’s given its electoral votes to the Dems in 17 out of 20 elections.

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Eric Ostermeier, who specializes in political insights that can be analyzed statistically, notes in a post on his Smart Politics site that if — as seems possible but definitely not certain — the Democratic candidates win the three U.S. House races that are shaping up to be close this year, Minnesota would have seven out of its eight House seats occupied by Democrats next year. That, Ostermeier notes, would be the lowest point of the Repubs by this measure in more than a century.

Writes Ostermeier:

Smart Politics examined the cycle-to-cycle partisan breakdown of the Minnesota U.S. House delegation and found that the last time Republicans were held to just one seat was over 125 years ago after the 1890 election.

In 1890, Minnesota had only five seats in the chamber and was coming off its fourth GOP sweep out of the last five cycles. However, the 1890 cycle saw a massive national mid-term wave with Republicans shedding over 90 seats to Democrats and Populists. Republicans lost four of its five seats in Minnesota that year – incumbents Mark Dunnell in the 1st CD, Darwin Hall in the 3rd, Samuel Snider in the 4th, and Solomon Comstock in the 5th. Only John Lind (who would later become a Democratic governor of the state) held his seat – winning by just 1.1 points over Democrat-Farmers Alliance nominee James Baker.