The Political Evolution of the States, Mapped Part VIII

Today I am covering battleground states, namely Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Indiana MC-Index

Indiana, the home of Vice President Mike Pence, at one time was more likely to go Democratic than some of its neighbors but now the opposite is true. This was one of the states in which the backlash to FDR’s presidency was major and this was partly due to his foreign policy: in 1940 leading administration defender Sherman Minton lost reelection to the Senate in part because of his vote for the peacetime draft. The backlash period lasts from 1939 to 1959, with the Democrats only temporarily gaining ground in the 1948 election. However, the late 1950s brought about a rise in liberalism in the Midwest and the state became more competitive for Democrats. By 1963, both its senators were Democrats and this remained the state of affairs until the 1976 election. Democrats held a fair number of House seats until the Republican Revolution of 1994, and right now the state is pretty close to what it was in the 1950s as a Republican leaning state.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 68


Iowa MC-Index

Iowa had a long history as a staunchly Republican state. It was a first since before the Civil War when Democrat Daniel Steck won election to the Senate in 1926, but the New Deal opened up opportunities for Democrats in the state, and from 1937 to 1943 even both their senators were Democrats. However, Iowa started reverting back to form with the 1938 midterms and from 1943 to 1957 no Democrat represented Iowa in the House. However, like with the rest of the Midwest, the late 1950s proved the start of better times for Democrats, and in Iowa’s case, they got even better in the 1970s. After the 1972 election, both the state’s senators were liberal Democrats. Although Republicans had a resurgence, Democratic strength in the state was sufficient for its voters to favor Michael Dukakis over George H.W. Bush in 1988. Today, despite Democrats winning two House seats in the 2018 election which depresses the average MC-Index for this Congress, the state seems to have a slight Republican lean given its election of a Republican governor, having two Republican senators, and recent polling that shows Trump doing quite well in the state.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 47


Michigan MC-Index

Michigan, like Iowa, had a history as a staunchly Republican state. Even in the Great Depression, its voters elected Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a known foe of the New Deal. The state was also one of the hotbeds of non-interventionism and voted for Willkie in 1940. However, with the growing power of auto unions in the state, it eventually shifted in a more Democratic direction by the late 1950s. Although the 2016 election in the state was quite a shocker and the Republicans have recruited a strong pick for the 2020 Senate race, this seems one of the most likely states to swing back to the Democratic column this year and their candidate for the Senate is currently an underdog. However, Michigan may surprise yet again.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 36


Ohio MC-Index

Although Ohio doesn’t have as staunchly a Republican history in its past as some of the other states, many big Republican names came from the state, McKinley and Taft among them. Outside of the Great Depression, the low point of conservatism in the state was in the 1980s as strange as that seems. Both its senators from 1977 to 1995 were liberal Democrats in John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum, with the latter being a bit more liberal than the former. Recent elections, however, have been looking good for Republicans. In 2016, Trump beat Clinton by eight points in the state and in 2018 not only did they not lose any House seats in a tough year, they held onto the governorship even though polls were not looking that good for them and their candidate for the Senate performed better than expected against incumbent Sherrod Brown. Ohio has traditionally been a bellwether state for presidential elections, but given recent elections it may really be slipping away from the Democrats.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 60


Pennsylvania MC-Index

Pennsylvania is yet another state to have a doggedly Republican history and a significant part of this was the fact that Philadelphia was from the Civil War to 1951 dominated by a Republican political machine. This machine, however, began to show cracks during the Great Depression and it was a coup for Democrats when in 1934 they succeeded in electing Joseph Guffey to the Senate, the first time this had happened in sixty years. Democrats also were getting elected to Congress from the Philadelphia districts, with 1946 the last time Republicans won all of those districts. In 1951, Mayor Barney Samuel chose not to run for reelection and Democrat Joseph S. Clark ran on a reform platform. He won with 58% of the vote and Philadelphia has been under Democratic rule ever since. The Republican Party in the state also grew more moderate, and perhaps their selection of moderate to liberal candidates was why they could often win Senate elections despite the state’s increasingly Democratic presidential voting behavior (particularly notable is Humphrey winning the state in 1968) with candidates such as Hugh Scott, Richard Schweiker, Henry J. Heinz III, and Arlen Specter. The state has changed somewhat in this respect, as Republicans got tired of electing moderate to liberal politicians. The state was another one of the surprises of the 2016 election, although like Michigan, it is one of the more likely ones to move back into the Democratic column. The state currently has liberal Democrat Bob Casey and conservative Republican Pat Toomey in the Senate, so the state is very much divided.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 43

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