The Midwest Battleground Will Determine The Political Future, And The Prospects For Democrats Look Good

The Midwest battleground—Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan—is where the modern political system began, and has been a crucial factor in elections ever since the Republican Party was first created in Michigan and Wisconsin in the summer of 1854.

The Midwest is the heartland of the nation, often ridiculed by those who are from the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, but the states of this area have a “wallop”, the potential to decide the national political trend.

Nine Republican Presidents came from the Midwest—Abraham Lincoln from Illinois; Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding from Ohio; Benjamin Harrison from Indiana; and Herbert Hoover from Iowa; along with Gerald Ford from Michigan inheriting the Presidency via the 25th Amendment.

Also, other Republican nominees (Alf Landon, Bob Dole) and Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower were from “next door” Kansas in the Great Plains.

At the same time, Midwestern Democrats who ran for President include James Cox of Ohio, Adlai Stevenson II of Illinois, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale from Minnesota, and George McGovern of “next door” South Dakota in the Great Plains, along with Harry Truman of Missouri and Barack Obama of Illinois.

So the Midwest and its nearby neighbors have had an amazing impact, and now the polls indicate the Midwest Governorships that are up for election trend toward Democrats in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, with Ohio also in play.

If the Midwest or most of it is won by Democrats, then the effect on reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives after the 2020 Census figures are in, will greatly change the political equation for the next decade, so these gubernatorial elections are crucial turning points.

And it may help any Midwestern Democrat who plans to run for President, with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar having a great opportunity, in the tradition of Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, plus the image of Eugene McCarthy and Paul Wellstone also helping to give her candidacy a boost.

If the Democratic Presidential nominee is from the Midwest, it gives a boost that a candidate from the Atlantic Coast or Pacific Coast cannot give it, as the “Fly Over” States really will, again, as in the past, determine Presidential elections as well as control of Congress.

5 comments on “The Midwest Battleground Will Determine The Political Future, And The Prospects For Democrats Look Good

  1. D October 1, 2018 5:46 am

    My response to this very interesting blog entry topic will be presented on three levels.


    Historically, there has been no United States presidential election won in which none of the Rust Belt states were carried. However, there have been United States presidential elections won in which none of the eleven Old Confederacy states carried. The last such occurrence was Republican Calvin Coolidge, with a full-term election, in 1924.

    Part of it has to do with population rank. Among those states cited are Top 10 populous Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. Throughout time, it reflected some logic that you would not find, on an old electoral map, a winner who made do without however many of those states.

    Just recently, Ronald touched on a similar topic with the blog entry, “
    “Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico: The Five Most Predictable States in Presidential Elections in American History” (September 15, 2018, ). I wrote a number of responses to add some facts and insights. So, I don’t want to repeat much of that in this response. That is why I provided the link.

    I do want to address the fact that where we are at, nowadays, is this frustratingly limited range of carried states in presidential elections. I was born in 1971. The winning Republicans of the 1970s and 1980s carried no fewer than 40 states. They won 40-state landslides. 80 percent or above of the nation”s states. (When you win at that level, you don’t do a recall in your memory of which states carried. You go over the ones which did not carry. So, I look at those landslides as also being consensus-type outcomes.) Since 1992, the range has been between 26 and 32 carried states—that is, 52 to 64 percent of participating states. This is a period, so far, of 7 election cycles and 24 years. One has to go back to the period of 1876 (Rutherford Hayes) to 1900 (re-election for William McKinley) for a comparable period of presidential winners having carried in the 50s and 60s percentile range of participating states.

    What this has done, with 1992 to 2016, is pretty much reduce the electoral map to precious states treated in a way like market research. Which ones are trending. Which ones, former bellwethers, went away—because they trended and ultimately moved to preferring one major party over the other. (Examples: Missouri and Tennessee to the Republicans; New Mexico to the Democrats. And Nevada, which votes like New Mexico, is gradually on that move.) So that leaves states which are emerging. (For the Republicans, it’s Minnesota and the statewide Maine. For the Democrats, it’s the non-state 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska and the state of North Carolina—two Democratic pickups for 2008 Barack Obama—along with Arizona, Georgia, and Texas.)

    Looking at the results from 2016, I keep in mind two different margins. While it was a Republican presidential pickup year for Donald Trump, losing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried the U.S. Popular Vote with a margin of +2.09 percentage points. Trump flipped six states—Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (also the non-state 2nd Congressional District of Maine)—and, between them, averaged a margin of +3.39 percentage points.

    I mentioned, in that thread, states which (since 1968) delivered party switches and have since not flipped back to the party which lost them. I mentioned the six flipped to Trump and, among them, which ones may stay in Republican column even with the next Democratic presidential pickup year. But, there is one—which flipped to Trump—which I think is going to continue its bellwether status. That is the home state of Ronald—the state of Florida.

    I cite Florida because, looking at those margins of Hillary Clinton (U.S. Popular Vote) and Donald Trump (average from pickup states), Florida fell within 5 percentage points in spread looking at both outcomes. That suggests the state is very reflective of what goes on in given presidential elections—including split-outcome ones (both 2000 and 2016).

    Consider the following:

    In the 2018 midterm elections, for which of the two major parties will win majorities with the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, and even the U.S. Governors, the Democrats will not flip the U.S. House without winning pickups in Florida; the Democrats cannot flip the U.S. Senate without re-election for Bill Nelson; and if the Democrats can win over a new majority of the nation’s governorships, they will be achieving that with Andrew Gillum winning a Democratic pickup of the governorship of Florida.

    In 2020, for the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump will not get re-elected without making sure he retains from his 2016 column (a margin of +1.19) the state of Florida. If Trump is unseated, making 2020 a Democratic presidential pickup year, that pickup winning Democrat will have flipped Florida. If 2024 is the year the presidency flips from the Republican to the Democratic column, that pickup winning Democrat will flip the state of Florida.


    Florida is on a roll. For six consecutive elections, from 1996 to 2016, it has an established streak of carrying for presidential winners. It votes like Ohio. But, Ohio is at 14 in a row (historical high: 16), from 1964 to 2016, and that state is flirting with getting a break in its unbroken streak. Its 2016 margin was overly Republican—it gave Trump a margin of +8.07, making it +4.68 above Trump’s average pickup states’ +3.39 and +10.16 above the U.S. Popular Vote margin of +2.09. Ohio performed at that 2016 level to allow for Trump to also flip Michigan. (In the 2000s, George W. Bush won Ohio in the no greater than the 200,000s range in raw votes. That level would not have been enough for a 2016 Trump to also flip Michigan. So, Trump won Ohio in the 400,000s range, enough to also win over Michigan. Rust Belt pecking order was: No. 1—Ohio; No. 4—Michigan; and in between, for Nos. 2 and 3, came Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.) If we get an upcoming election in which Ohio and Florida carry differently, and one of them vote for the winner, suggesting one of them will definitely retain its bellwether status, I would place my bet not on Ohio but on Florida. We just ended the decade of the 2010s with presidential elections. So, for the next five cycles, covering the U.S. presidential elections of the 2020s and 2030s, it would not surprise me if every winner will carry the state of Florida. Right now, I can’t reach that same conclusion with any other state.

  2. Ronald October 1, 2018 6:29 am

    Another wonderful analysis, D, and I thank you again.

    One correction, just for the record, lol!

    I am a native New Yorker (Queens County and Nassau County, Long Island), still sound like a New Yorker with my accent, lol, hahaha, but moved to Florida in 1989.

    I love the weather of Florida, certainly, but in my heart, I am still a New Yorker, hahaha, and always will be!

    But I agree Florida is the future of America, already the third largest state in population, having passed New York a few years back.

    Thanks again, D!

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