Election News

Buttigieg and Sanders Nearly Tied as Iowa Vote Count Nears Completion

February 6, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders has surged into a virtual tie with Pete Buttigieg in Iowa as of Thursday morning.  The gap narrowed overnight when results from three of four satellite caucuses were released by the Iowa Democratic Party.  Sanders dominated these caucuses, which were set up - one in each congressional district - for those couldn't make their assigned precinct.

Overall, 97% of precincts have now reported. The race remains too close too call. 

Live Results

The most important set of numbers is this first one, State Delegate Equivalents.  When all the votes are counted, these will be used to determined the allocation of the 41 delegates Iowa sends to the national convention. In addition to the two frontrunners, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden will earn some of these delegates, and Amy Klobuchar may earn one as well.

For more information on what these other numbers mean, see our Iowa Caucus Overview.


Update: Iowa Delegate Counts

February 5, 2020

An update on Iowa pledged delegate allocation.

Democratic Caucuses: About 71% of the vote has been counted as of Thursday morning. Based on that, 24 of the 41 available delegates can be allocated, per NYT/AP.  As of now, they are split between Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  When all the results are in, these candidates will likely add to their total, with Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar also receiving delegates. While Klobuchar is under 15% statewide, she has exceed that in a number of precincts, and is even leading in a few counties.  No overall winner for the state has yet been named.

You can monitor the total delegate count for each candidate using the Estimated Actual tab of the Interactive Delegate Calculator. 1,990 pledged delegates are needed to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot.

Republican Caucuses: As might be expected, President Trump received overwhelming support at the caucuses, winning over 97% of the vote.  However, with 40 delegates available and a proportional statewide allocation, Bill Weld's 1.5% appears to have earned him a lone delegate. 

Maryland 7th District Special Election Primary: Overview and Live Results

February 4, 2020

Special primary elections are being held Tuesday in Maryland's 7th Congressional District. The nominees will meet in the special general election in April, with the winner filling the vacancy left by the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings last October.

It's a very crowded field, with 24 Democrats and 8 Republicans seeking the nomination. The most well-known are Cumming's widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who held the seat before Cummings.

The Baltimore-area seat is safely Democratic; Cummings won his final term by 55% in 2018; Hillary Clinton won here by a similar margin in 2016.  As a result, whomever emerges as the Democratic nominee will be a prohibitive favorite in the April 28 special election.

April 28 is also primary day in Maryland for the November elections. As the filing date has already passed, this same large group will meet again for the nomination to run for a full term.  It is possible - although perhaps unlikely - that the winner of the special general election will simultaneously lose his or her primary, effectively becoming a lame duck before taking their seat in Congress.

Polls close at 8:00 PM ET; results will appear below after that time.

Iowa Caucus: Overview and Live Results

February 3, 2020

Months of campaigning and millions of dollars in spending preceded the Iowa Democratic caucuses.  All that for a mere 41 pledged delegates - just over 1% of the total that will be allocated during the 57 primary and caucus events over the next four months.  However, it is the first opportunity for voters to pass judgment on a historically large field.  The verdict of voters in Iowa and next week's New Hampshire Primary has proved predictive:  Every winner -except one1 1In 1992, Bill Clinton did not win a contest until March 3. The four contests preceding that date were each won by a different candidate. - of a contested major-party nomination since 1980 has won at least one of these two states. Additionally, the result in these states will almost certainly winnow the field.

If you'd like to read more on how the caucuses work, here are some explainers from The New York Times, NPR, Politico, and The Washington Post.

In the interest of transparency, or perhaps to confuse people, the Iowa Democratic Party will release four sets of results tonight.   We expect the first results to start arriving after 8:00 PM ET; the tables below will update with those results as they come in.

Round One - First Alignment:  This will be the initial preference of caucusgoers across the state's nearly 1,700 precincts. The percentage results here should be somewhat consistent with the statewide polling that has preceded the caucus (if that polling proves accurate).  However, the candidate leading after this round may not end up as the winner. This is because of the 15% viability threshold. 

Round 2 - Final Alignment: Candidates that don't receive 15% in Round 1 are considered nonviable. However, this threshold is determined at each individual precinct.2 2For example, a candidate receiving 18% statewide in Round 1 may not be viable in all precincts. On the other hand, a candidate at 10% may be viable in some. In Round 2, caucusgoers who have supported a nonviable candidate at their location will have the option to move to a viable candidate3 3Caucusgoers associated with a viable candidate in Round 1 are locked in. This is a change from prior cycles. or join forces with supporters of another nonviable candidate in an attempt to get one of them across the threshold.

State Delegate Equivalents and Delegates: Still with us?  We've finally arrived at the results that matter. Round 2 totals are translated into state delegate equivalents. The person with the most state delegate equivalents is considered the winner by most media organizations. The result here should largely reflect the Round 2 results. However, since all precincts are not weighted equally, it is possible that the candidate getting the most votes in Round 2 will not be the winner.

Finally, those 41 pledged delegates are awarded proportionately based on the state delegate equivalents - for the most part.  As is the case in other states, a predetermined number of Iowa's delegates to the national convention are awarded based on the statewide vote, with some awarded based on the vote in each congressional district.  Depending on how the results break across the individual districts, there could be a situation - especially in a close race like this - where the person winning the most state delegates does not receive the most pledged delegates.4 4This outcome happened in the 2008 Nevada caucuses, where Hillary Clinton won the statewide vote by over 5 points, but Barack Obama ended up with a 13-12 margin in delegates.

Republican Caucuses:  Only one set of results is expected here.  40 pledged delegates will be allocated proportionately based on the statewide vote.

The Road to 270: Arkansas

February 3, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.


From statehood through 1964, Arkansas was one of the most reliably Democratic states in presidential elections. Since then, however, it has only voted Democratic three times. Two of these three were for native son Bill Clinton, in 1992 and 1996. The other Democrat to carry the state was fellow southerner Jimmy carter in 1976. The state’s flip from Democratic to Republican stems from a political legacy of slavery and regional factionalism.


Arkansas was first explored by the Spanish in 1551. French explorers arrived 130 years later, which led to missionaries and traders settling in the region in the 18th Century. France claimed the territory from the mid 1600s through 1772 as a part of Louisiana, or New France. Spain then controlled the territory for 29 years until they returned it to France in 1800. In 1803, territory including what is modern-day Arkansas would be acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Before Arkansas would become a state, it would go through several territorial iterations. First the Louisiana Territory from 1805-1812, then the Missouri Territory from 1812-1819, then the Arkansas Territory in 1819. The Arkansas Territory comprised most of today’s Arkansas and Oklahoma, but the Oklahoma portion was cut off in 1824, defining the boundaries of modern-day Arkansas. Finally, in 1836, Arkansas was added to the United States as the 25th state.

Statehood and Slavery

Arkansas entered the Union as a slave state. Like most of the south, Arkansas was dependent on agriculture and the associated economics of forced labor, bringing it tightly into the pro-slavery Democratic Party. The state cast its electoral votes accordingly from its first election in 1836 through 1860. In 1860, however, the Democratic Party split between pro-slavery Southern Democrats and the northern Democrats. Arkansas, along with most of the South, voted for the pro-slavery Southern Democratic nominee while northern Democrats supported Stephen Douglas. The division allowed the abolitionist Republican Abraham Lincoln to win the Electoral College with just 40% of the popular vote.

Arkansas did not secede from the Union immediately following the election. It wasn’t until April, 1861, when President Lincoln tried to enlist Arkansans to suppress a rebellion in South Carolina, that Arkansas seceded. Arkansas became the first state admitted back into the union on June 22, 1968 after it passed a new Constitution that temporarily disenfranchised former confederates and ratified the 13th and 14th Amendments. The new document would ostensibly lead to universal male suffrage and equality before the law, but racial and economic discrimination remained.

In 1868, largely due to the voting restrictions placed on former confederates, Arkansas voted for Republican Ulysses Grant. This was the only election out of the state’s first 31 in which it would cast valid electoral votes for the Republican. While Grant would again win the popular vote in Arkansas in 1872, the state’s votes were not counted due to voting irregularities.

From 1876 through 1964, Arkansas voted Democratic. Voter suppression helped Democrats in the post-reconstruction years.  This first took the form of the Klu Klux Klan and voter intimidation. Later, in 1891 and 1892, it was a poll tax that disenfranchised poor blacks and whites. Between the 1888 and 1892 elections, turnout fell in Arkansas from 157,000 to 148,000 with the Republican vote total dropping by 13,000 while the Democratic total grew by 2,000.   

A Turn to Republicans

Like the rest of the South, Arkansas stuck with Democrats. It often did so by enormous margins. Franklin Roosevelt carried the state by 73%, 64%, and 58%, and 40% margins in his 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944 elections. It wasn’t until 1956 that Republicans would come within single digits. Democrats still managed to carry the state through 1964, even with these smaller margins and more competition.

The Democratic streak finally broke in 1968. George Wallace, the former and future Democrat from Alabama, broke with his party and ran as the American Independent Party’s pro-segregationist candidate.  Wallace won the plurality of the vote (39%) in Arkansas, and with it, the state’s Electoral College votes.

From 1968 through 2016, Arkansas would only vote Democratic in three more presidential elections. In 1976 it would overwhelmingly support fellow southerner Jimmy Carter. In 1992 and 1996, another Democrat would again leverage his southern charm to win the presidency. This time, however, that candidate was the state's very own governor. Bill Clinton carried his home state in both 1992 and 1996, beating George H.W. bush by 18% in 1992 and Bob Dole by 17% in 1996.

Even though Arkansas voted overwhelmingly for Clinton — it was the only state to give Clinton a majority in 19921 1Independent candidate Ross Perot received about 19% of the national vote that year. Aside from Arkansas, each of the 50 states was won by a plurality. — these elections marked the end of the road for Democratic presidential candidates in the state.

Recent Republican Domination

In 2000, Republican George W. Bush beat Democrat Al Gore by 5%. This margin would expand in every subsequent presidential election. Since 2000, Arkansas has trudged rightward in every presidential election without regard to the national environment. The biggest rightward jump was between 2004 and 2008, when John McCain doubled George Bush’s margin of victory from 10% to 20%. In those same years, the national popular vote shifted nine points in Democrats' favor. The same is true of 2012 and 2016 — even as the national environment became more Democratic, the Republican nominees expanded their margins in Arkansas. Finally, in 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton 61% to 34%, a 27% margin.

Until recently, Democrats regularly won downballot elections here. From 2003 through 2010, Democrats held both Senate seats and three of four House seats. The party also held the governorship from 2007 through 2014. Arkansans were willing to split their ballots and vote for Democrats even as they voted Republican for president.

This ticket-splitting trend stopped abruptly. In the 2010 Republican wave, two Democratic House incumbents retired and Republicans won their seats. Republicans also flipped one of the Senate seats that year. Two years later, Republicans flipped the fourth and final House seat. Finally, in 2014, Republicans took control of the entire Arkansas Congressional delegation by winning the second Senate seat.

Current Political Landscape

It’s not surprising that Arkansas has become decisively Republican. The state’s demographic makeup neatly aligns with that of the party at this point in time.  The state is whiter, more rural, and less college educated than the country as a whole. The party’s key demographic base — non-college educated whites — make up 60% of the population. Economically suffering, rural regions of the country — of which Arkansas has many — were particularly receptive to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” brand of populism.  

While Democrats were once able to compete throughout the entire state, their support is now isolated to Little Rock and some counties on the eastern border. Back in 1996, Bill Clinton won all but 9 counties in the state, including the states rural, less dense regions. Twenty years later, Hillary Clinton only won eight counties while Donald Trump carried 77. Trump improved upon Mitt Romney’s margins in nearly the entire state, but he did so by the greatest margins in the northeastern corner of the state.

Clinton meanwhile, outperformed Barack Obama in four urban and suburban counties. Pulaski and Faulkner Counties, which include Little Rock and its northern suburbs, shifted leftwards. So too did Benton and Washington Counties in the northwestern corner of the state. Donald Trump still outran Clinton in Benton, beating her by 40%. Washington County, home to Fayetteville, went to Trump by 10%, closer than Romney’s 16% margin. Overall, Arkansas has followed the national trend of rural regions shifting rightward and urban ones moving left.

Other southern states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas have deep blue urban centers that offset Republican-leaning rural regions. As these cities and their suburbs have grown and become more Democratic, the states have shifted towards battleground status. Arkansas has a similar landscape with its rural, white, Republican regions and the more diverse, dense, and Democratic Little Rock. Unlike these other southern states, however, Little Rock is not large enough to balance the state’s rural population. Unless Little Rock becomes a demographic and political powerhouse on the scale of Atlanta or Charlotte, or until the current party coalitions break down, Arkansas will remain with the GOP. With such a shift all but impossible before November, Arkansas is safely Republican.

Next Week:  TBA

Reports in this series:

DNC Alters Qualifying Criteria for Nevada Debate; Changes Open Door for Bloomberg

January 31, 2020

The Democratic National Committee announced significant changes to the qualifying requirements for the party's February 19 debate in Las Vegas. Gone is the fundraising requirement, which opens the door to participation by Mike Bloomberg. The former NYC mayor is self-funding his campaign, and is not accepting contributions from individual donors.

There are three different ways to qualify for the Nevada debate, which comes three days before that state's caucuses:

  • A minimum of 10% support in four national or remaining early state polls from accredited pollsters.  Early state polls include those from Nevada and South Carolina (Feb. 29 primary).
  • A minimum of 12% support from some combination of two Nevada or South Carolina polls.
  • Earn at least one pledged delegate in Iowa (Feb. 3 caucus) or New Hampshire (Feb. 11 primary).

To qualify, polls must be from DNC-accredited pollsters and released between January 15 and February 18. The only candidates that have qualified thus far are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Bloomberg is not participating in contests prior to Super Tuesday (March 3). His avenue to the stage in Nevada is predicated on meeting the 10%/4 poll criteria. He has one such poll thus far.

The next debate will take place February 7 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Seven candidates have qualified for that. That debate will be broadcast on ABC, in partnership with its local affiliate WMUR-TV and Apple News.



John Delaney Ends Bid for Democratic Nomination

January 31, 2020

John Delaney said Friday that he is ending his presidential campaign. The former Maryland congressman was the first Democrat to join the 2020 field, announcing his candidacy back in July, 2017.  Now, 2 1/2 years later, he is exiting just three days before the first votes are cast.  

In his withdrawal announcement, Delaney expressed concern that by staying in the race, he would harm the prospect of other moderate candidates in the Iowa caucuses:

"This decision is informed by internal analyses indicating John’s support is not sufficient to meet the 15% viability in a material number of caucus precincts, but sufficient enough to cause other moderate candidates to not to make the viability threshold, especially in rural areas where John has campaigned harder than anyone. He strongly believes the Democratic Party should advance candidates with progressive values on the big issues of our time, but who are committed to governing with pragmatic, fact-based, bipartisan solutions."

11 Democrats remain in the field as the voters begin to have their say in the nominating process, leading off with the Iowa caucuses on Monday


Cook Political Report Moves Senate Special Election in Georgia to Leans Republican

January 31, 2020

The Cook Political Report has updated its rating for the U.S. Senate special election in Georgia.  It moves from Likely to Leans Republican following the entry of credible challengers to Sen. Kelly Loeffler from both parties, further complicated by the unusual structure of this election.

Read the full Cook analysis here.

Rep. Doug Collins (GA-9) joined the race on Wednesday, and will challenge Loeffler from the right. On Thursday, Democrats landed one of their top recruits, as Rev. Raphael Warnock announced his bid.  He joins other prominent Democrats in the race, including Matt Lieberman, son of former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, and Ed Tarver, a US attorney under Barack Obama. 

Under Georgia special election law, there are no party primaries. All the above candidates, and any other entrants, will appear on a single ballot on Election Day, November 3. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, a top-two runoff will be held January 5, 2021.

Georgia House Bill 757, currently under consideration, would change the law to require a primary election. Generally, it has the support of Republicans aligned with Collins and many Democrats.  It is opposed by Gov. Kemp, who appointed Loeffler to the vacancy created by the retirement of Sen. Johnny Isakson at the end of 2019.  Regardless of whether this bill becomes law, it is unlikely to affect this year's race.

Cook Political Interactive Map

The current Cook forecast for the 2020 Senate elections is below.  Click or tap for an interactive version to create and share your own projection.

Rep. Doug Collins Enters Georgia Senate Race; Move Likely to Split GOP Vote

January 29, 2020

GOP Rep. Doug Collins (GA-9) said Wednesday he will run for U.S. Senate in 2020.  He made the announcement during an appearance on Fox & Friends, confirming news reports of recent days.  Collins will compete in the special election to complete the final two years of the seat previously held by Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired at the end of 2019. The incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler was appointed last month by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill the seat until the special election. That decision went against the wishes of President Trump, who had been strongly advocating for Collins.

The move may complicate the GOP path to holding the Senate seat.  Current Georgia law provides that all candidates - from all parties - in a special election appear on a single ballot on Election Day.  If no candidate reaches 50%, the top two move on to a runoff, which will be held on January 5, 2021. Collins entry increases the likelihood of a runoff, as it will split the GOP vote which would have almost entirely gone toward Loeffler.

Allies of Collins in the Georgia State House are attempting to modify the law and hold a more traditional party primary. The supporters believe the very conservative Collins would win a contest against Loeffler, and enjoy full GOP support in November.

If the law is changed, the contest would take place on May 19, when the state holds its general primary election for offices other than president1 1Georgia's presidential primary is March 24.  Among those May primaries are those for Georgia's other U.S. Senate seat, which is up for its regular six-year term in November. That seat is currently held by Republican Sen. David Purdue, who will be seeking a 2nd term.

Collins entry was poorly received by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is strongly backing Loeffler. In a statement, they said that the move risks both Senate seats as well as Georgia's 16 electoral votes in the presidential election. 

The decision opens up the seat in Georgia's 9th congressional district. It is a deep red district that the GOP will have no trouble holding. Trump won by 59 points over Hillary Clinton here in 2016; with Collins winning a 4th term by a similar amount in 2018.

36 current members of the U.S. House are now retiring or seeking other offices.  

The Road to 270: South Dakota

January 27, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

South Dakota

South Dakota has produced some of the most influential Democrats of the last half century. Tom Daschle served as the Senate Majority Leader from 2001 to 2003. The 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern, was a former South Dakota Senator.

The state, however, has voted Republican in nearly every presidential election in its history. Democrats have only won here four times, most recently in 1964. However, the state’s populist character has allowed downballot Democrats to win favor with rural communities even as it repeatedly voted Republican for president. This populism traces back to 1892, the first presidential election in which South Dakota participated. First, though, we’ll look at the state’s pre-statehood era.  

Before Statehood

South Dakota and North Dakota share much of the same history. The following is from our article on North Dakota:

“Congress originally organized the Dakota Territory in 1861. It was primarily composed of land acquired from France in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. During the early and mid 1800s, the U.S. traded with, repressed, and eventually drove out Native Americans in the territory. 

Both North and South Dakota entered the United States on November 2, 1889, becoming the 39th and 40th states, respectively. Regional differences, as well as disputes over a future capital, pushed the formation of two independent states.”

While North Dakota was mostly settled for its farmland, South Dakota had gold. The metal was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874 and settlers flocked. Between 1870 and 1880, the region’s population grew over 800%, from under 12,000 to over 98,000. 

The population continued to grow as railroad expanded through the region allowing easier travel and transport of goods. Construction on the railroad began in 1872 and spread quickly. The population would continue to grow through the 1920s as miners came for gold and homesteaders settled on open farmland. Population peaked in the 1930 Census with nearly 700,000 people.

As with much of the country's westward expansion, South Dakota's early growth often came at the expense of indigenous people. A particularly infamous example, the Wounded Knee Massacre, took place little more than a year after statehood. It marked the climax of federal efforts to repress Indian tribes of the Great Plains.

Early Politics of South Dakota

From its first election in 1892, South Dakota has leaned Republican. Most South Dakota settlers had come from the Midwest or New England. These northerners were natural Republican constituencies, a relic of the Civil War.

The state also had a populist streak. This was due in part to its agrarian character. In 1892, the Populist and Republican parties rallied around Free Silver, a policy to increase the money supply and help indebted farmers. Democrats wanted to stick to the Gold Standard.  The Populist and Republican candidates received a combined 87% of South Dakota’s vote. Again in 1896, South Dakota voted for the populist Free Silver candidate, although this year the parties had flipped. The Free Silver candidate was Democrat William Jennings Bryan. He edged out Republican William McKinley by less than 1%.  

Outside of these election in which the currency question was paramount, South Dakota has been reliably Republican in presidential elections. It would only vote for three more Democrats after 1896.

In 1912, South Dakota was the only state without the Republican Party’s official candidate, William Taft, on the ballot. Progressives controlled the state party and decided not to offer a slate of electors for Taft. They instead decided to put up electors for Theodore Roosevelt who had recently split with the Republican Party and was running as a third-party candidate. South Dakota was the only state in which Roosevelt received a majority of the popular vote.  

After 1912, South Dakota voted Republican until 1932. From 1920 through 2016, North Dakota and South Dakota would vote the same way in every presidential election.

New Deal Through the 1970’s

Like other agriculture-heavy states, South Dakota suffered during the Great Depression. A farming crisis in the 1920s had already weakened the state’s economy and the ensuing depression exacerbated the problems. In 1932, South Dakota voted for Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal which promised government assistance. South Dakota ranked 7th among the states for per capita spending by New Deal programs.

In 1940, Midwestern native Wendell Willkie was able to win back rural, small town areas in the Northern U.S. Through these victories, he was able to bring South Dakota back to its Republican roots even as he lost the election to Roosevelt. From that year on, with the exception of 1964, South Dakota would vote Republican in every presidential contest.”

While South Dakota did vote Republican consistently, it was not always by large margins. In 1972, 1976, 1988, 1992, and 1996, Republicans only won South Dakota by single digits. The state’s voters also frequently split their ballots and elected downballot Democrats. In 1962, South Dakota elected George McGovern to the Senate — a seat he held through 1981. The state also elected Democratic Senators James Abourezk, Tom Daschle, and Tim Johnson who held office from 1973 to 1979, 1987 to 2005, and 1997 to 2015. Democrats had similar downballot success in the House.

Even so, South Dakota was still red on the presidential level. The state even voted against its own senator, George McGovern, in 1972. Like North Dakota, South Dakota’s agrarian populism allowed Democrats who promised to help struggling rural communities win down-ballot even as Republicans dominated presidential politics.  

Recent History

In the 1980s, South Dakota began to change. Drawn by low corporate taxes and less regulation, companies began to build branches in Sioux Falls. The city’s first big catch was Citibank in 1981. A financial sector sprung up in the city as other banks including Capital One and Wells Fargo made the same move. Soon other industries with ties to the financial sector — including pharmaceutical and cybersecurity — developed. Amy Sullivan and the National Journal write that the “presence of Citibank in Sioux Falls has played a significant role in transforming a once sleepy agriculture-dependent town into a growing regional powerhouse with a number of thriving industries outside the financial sector.”

In 1980, Sioux Falls had just over 80,000 residents. Now it has reached nearly 200,000.  This influx accounts for much of the state’s overall growth. The state’s total population has grown from just under 700,000 to around 900,000 in the same 40-year period. As in other states, people are leaving South Dakota’s rural regions to live in the more densely populated urban areas.

Even with the banking boom, agriculture, mining, and manufacturing are still major employers in the state. Perhaps its unsurprising that a state composed of blue collar, rural communities and a city dependent on low regulation and taxes has shifted decisively towards Republicans.

Recent Presidential Elections

The 2000 election was a tipping point for South Dakota. While the Republican margin in 1996 was just 3%, in 2000, Republican George Bush defeated Al Gore by 22%. Al Gore’s brand of liberalism and environmentalism was not popular in much of the Mountain West, including South Dakota.

From 2000 on, South Dakota was far more Republican than the nation overall. Even in 2008, as Barack Obama won the national popular vote by 7%, McCain carried South Dakota by 8%. In 2012, Mitt Romney expanded that margin to 18%. In 2016 Donald Trump won the state by 30%, the largest margin in the state since 1952.

While Obama had won 16 counties in 2008 and 10 counties in 2012, Clinton won just 5 in 2016. Trump improved upon Romney’s margins in every county in the state. The president’s cultural conservatism and economic populism appealed to South Dakotans.

Until recently, Republican victories at the top of the ticket have not prevented Democratic success downballot. As recently as 2008, a Democrat won the state’s only House seat. As politics has become more nationalized and partisan, this ticket splitting has stopped. No Democrat has won a statewide election since that 2008 House race.

This November, South Dakota will elect a president, senator, and representative. Anything other than a Republican trifecta would be a major surprise. Outside of a complete party collapse, South Dakota is safely Republican.

However, before we get to the general election, we go through the nomination process. This kicks off, as it has since 1972, with the Iowa caucuses next Monday. South Dakota and Nebraska, which both share a border with Iowa, go much later in the calendar. While the geographic difference is small, the gulf in attention from presidential aspirants is huge.

Next Week:  Arkansas

Reports in this series: