Why The Election Is Not (Just) About Ohio

Ohio is only one of several states that could point towards victory in this year’s election

In the last few weeks, there has been a focus in the media on Ohio for next Tuesday’s Presidential election, with the belief being that it is the most crucial of swing states and whoever carries it will win the White House.  Not only is this a simplistic look at the race, it is also not true – the way the Electoral College map is shaping up, there is a chance that either President Obama or Governor Romney could win the election without being victorious in Ohio – something that has not happened since 1960, when Richard Nixon won the state, but President Kennedy took the White House.

Back in July, I wrote on how the race was looking state by state and at the time, it appeared that Romney’s path to success was narrow.  However, following a single poor performance in the first debate, President Obama has seen his lead evaporate and he now trails by 48% to 47% in the latest national poll – but that has limited importance.  Winning the popular vote has not always guaranteed the Presidency: more people voted for Al Gore in 2000 than George Bush (not even counting those that were rejected in the Florida recount);  the 20th and 22nd President, Grover Cleveland, gained the most votes in three straight elections, but lost the White House for four years to Benjamin Harrison in 1888; and Andrew Jackson lost in 1824, as did Samuel Tilden fifty years later, despite both having more ballots cast for them than their opponents.

The United States is not a Democracy – it was designed as a Republic where the leader is not elected by the people, rather they vote for the people who will elect the President.  Contests are a race to win a majority of the Electoral College Votes, which at the moment means 270 out of 538 – each state having 1 ECV for each Senator (total 100) and House of Representatives seat (435), plus three for the District of Columbia.  With less than a week of the campaign left, these are the states we can be (relatively) sure about:

Electoral College Votes (ECVs) in Brackets:

Romney will win: 

West Virginia (11); Kentucky (8); Indiana (11); Tennessee (11) South Carolina (9); Georgia (16); Alabama (9); Mississippi (6); Louisiana (8); Arkansas (6); Missouri (10); Texas (38); Oklahoma (7); Kansas (6); Nebraska (5)*; North Dakota (3); South Dakota (3); Montana (3); Wyoming (3); Idaho (4); Utah (6); Arizona (11); Alaska (3). 23 states – 191 ECVs

*Nebraska can split its votes between candidates, as it did in 2008 when President Obama took 1 ECV after winning in the 2nd Congressional District, but it is unlikely to happen again this year according to the latest polls, so I am giving Governor Romney all 5 ECVs

Obama will win:

Maine (4); Massachusetts (11); Connecticut (7); Rhode Island (4); Vermont (3); New Jersey (14); Delaware (3); Maryland (10); Illinois (20); New Mexico (5); California (55); Oregon (7); Washington (12); Hawaii (4); District of Columbia (3).  16 states + D.C. – 191 ECVs

Conveniently leaving both candidates needing 79 more Electoral College Votes to win the White House, with 11 more states up for grabs.  If either Governor Romney or President Obama were to lose one of these states, it would be a sign that the entire election was going away from them and could be a landslide victory for their opponent.  The most vulnerable of these “safe” states – thus the ones to look out for – are Oregon (where Obama’s lead is down to 6 points) and Arizona (Romney’s lead was down to 5.3 points in October), but as both states are further west than most of the swing states, results will already be coming in before they can provide any  indication of a massive swing in either direction. Continue reading

50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 45. Utah

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

45. Utah

Capital: Salt Lake City

Nickname: Beehive State

Motto: Industry

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Utah was home to several tribes of Native Americans including the Shoshone, Ute and Navajo.  The first from the Old World to claim the area were the Spanish, who controlled the area from Mexico north into the modern-day United States, which they called Alta (Upper) California.  At the same time as the US was gaining Independence from Great Britain, Spanish explorers travelled as far as the Utah Lake when they were in search of the Pacific Ocean.  The region became part of Mexico when they gained their autonomy from Spain in 1821, then – under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which ended the Mexican-American War – the United States gained control of Utah.

A year before it the region had officially been recognised as being part of America, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints – also known as the Mormons – under the leadership of Brigham Young, had entered the Salt Lake Valley and began the process of establishing settlements there.  The group – who had left Nauvoo, Illinois following the death of their founder, Joseph Smith – struggled to survive in the barren desert lands, but believed they had to be somewhere that remote in order to be free to practice their religion.  In 1849, Young wished to set up a government that would be accepted by the United States, so he sent John Milton Bernhisel to Washington D.C. to petition for the creation of the Territory of Deseret – which encompassed the area that included the modern-day states of Utah and Nevada, as well as parts of California, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and New Mexico.  The size of the suggested Territory was the main reason it failed but, the following year, as part of the Compromise of 1850 – which resolved the dispute between free and slave states about the land the US had acquired at the end of the Mexican-American War – the Utah Territory was organised, which included the current state’s borders, as well as the majority of Nevada.

During the late 1850s, President James Buchanan and others in the Federal Government were concerned of a rebellion by the Utah Territory, had issues with the theodemocracy that existed there under the Governorship of Brigham Young, and were particularly perturbed by the Mormons practicing polygamy.  This resulted in a conflict between the United States and members of the Latter Day Saints church which, although it involved no battles and was mostly resolved through negotiations, was not completely without bloodshed.  120 settlers heading for California from Arkansas were killed in southern Utah by Mormons in September of 1857 and, the following month, six Californians passing through the state were accused of being spies for the US Army and were killed.  After a lengthy standoff between the two parties, Young was replaced as Governor by Alfred Cumming and the matter was settled, but President Buchanan was heavily criticised for his handling of the situation, in particular for sending troops to the Territory to investigate an alleged rebellion, without ascertaining for sure that one existed.  Plural marriages in the Mormon community hindered Utah’s aspirations for statehood for many years and it was only after the LDS Manifesto of 1890, which ended the church’s approval of polygamy, that a renewed application was accepted, allowing Utah to become the 45th state of the Union on January 4th, 1896.

It is the 13th biggest state and, with just over 2.8 million residents, it ranks as the 34th most populous.  Tourism is one of its main economic sectors, with the state having five National Parks within its borders – Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef and Zion – alongside being popular for winter sports such as skiing.  The other major industries in Utah are agriculture, where its main products are hay, barley, corn and livestock; and the mining of minerals like copper, gold and silver, as well as fossil fuels, including coal, petroleum and natural gas.  There is one “Big Four” sports team located in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz of the NBA, while the town of Levan – which is “navel” spelled backwards – is in the geographic center of the state.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 6

2008 Result: McCain 62.9% Obama 34.2%

Latest Poll: Romney +51%

Governor Romney, a Mormon, will win Utah by a wide margin, but any Republican candidate would also emerge victorious from a state that has only voted for a Democrat in a Presidential election once in the last fifteen contests (LBJ in 1964).

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is on Senate election in Utah this year, as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) seeks re-election against his Democratic Party opponent, Scott Howell, with Hatch certain to win a seventh term in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since the 1970s.

After redistricting following the 2010 census, the number of Representatives in the House that Utah has will be increased by one to four.  The current delegation is made up of one Democrats and two Republicans, with the race for the new, 4th district, currently a toss-up between Mia Howell (R) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D), who currently represents the 2nd district.

Gubernatorial: Governor Gary Herbert (R) is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger, Peter Cooke, with Herbert currently 36 points ahead in the polls and appears sure to secure a second term in office.

50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 44. Wyoming

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

44. Wyoming

Capital: Cheyenne

Nickname: Equality State

Motto: Equal Rights

About the State

Wyoming is the 10th largest state in the US and, with fewer than 600,000 residents, the least populated of the fifty.  Before the arrival of people from Europe, the region was home to Native Americans from various tribes including the Cheyenne, Crow and Sioux.  In the early 19th century, the Lewis and Clark expedition entered the area and one member of that group, John Clayton, is thought to be the first white person to have visited what is now Yellowstone National Park, though at the time his descriptions of thermal activity in the region were thought to be fictional.  Much of the early activity in the area was of pioneers passing through on the Oregon trail; prospectors heading to states where gold had been discovered, like California, Colorado or Montana; and also Mormons en route to Utah.  In 1865, the Battle of Tongue River – part of an ongoing conflict between the United States and Native Americans – was fought in Sheridan County and effectively completed the Powder River Expedition, a military operation by the US to quell uprisings from the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapho tribes, following the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado.

The population increased significantly after the Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged settlers to locate there to take advantages of the fertile ground for agriculture and space for open range cattle raising; and also following the extension of the Union Pacific Railroad to Cheyenne in 1867.  The following year, the Wyoming Territory was organised by Congressional Act and Yellowstone was designated as the nation’s first National Park in 1872.  Unlike its neighbours, Wyoming never experienced a population boom from a discovery of precious metals like gold within its borders and it was not until July 10th, 1890, that it became the 44th state of the Union.

Wyoming is the second least densely populated state – behind only Alaska – with an average of only 5.85 people per square mile.  There are no “Big Four” sports teams located there and no President or Vice-President has been born there, though VP Dick Cheney did attend High School in Casper.  The state’s economy is based around tourism, with more than six million people each year visiting places like Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; the mining of coal, natural gas and crude oil; as well as agriculture, with 91% of the land in Wyoming being designated as rural and its major output being beef.  As a territory, Wyoming was the first in the United States to give women the vote, doing so in 1870, and it was also the first state to elect a female Governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, who took office in 1925.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 3

2008 Result: McCain 65.2% Obama 31.7%

Latest Poll: No Recent Poll

Wyoming has gone to the Republican Candidate in 14 of the last 15 Presidential elections and this November it is so certain to go to Governor Romney, that they are not even bothering to do polls there.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Wyoming this year, with Sen. John Barrasso (R) seeking re-election for a full term, after winning a special ballot in 2008 following the death of  Sen. Craig Thomas.  Barrasso’s opponent will be the Democratic Party candidate, Tim Chesnut, but in this GOP stronghold, there is no chance of the Republican being beaten.

There is one at-large district for Wyoming in the House of Representatives and the seat is currently held by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R), who will win a third term over her Democratic Party opponent, Chris Henrichsen.

Ballot Measures: There is a measure to amend the Constitution of Wyoming in response to the Affordable Care Act, proposing that no person shall be compelled to obtain health care in the state.

50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 43. Idaho

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

43. Idaho

Capital: Boise

Nickname: Gem State

Motto: Esto Perpetua

(Let It Be Perpetual)

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Idaho was home to Native American tribes including the Nez Perce and Western Shoshone.  It was the last of the continental United States to be explored by people from the Old World, with the Lewis and Clark expedition entering the region in 1805.  As with many of the states around it, the majority of the early pioneers in the area were fur traders, though they did not establish any permanent settlements in Idaho. Like Washington, it was originally part of Oregon Country, which the United States and Britain agreed to joint occupancy of in the Treaty of 1818 that had ended the War of 1812, but by 1846 this had been rescinded and the 49th Parallel was used as the border between the two territories (now the boundary between Canada and the US).

Idaho was initially organised in the Oregon Territory but there was little settlement in the region, with people passing through Idaho en route to California after the discovery of gold there in 1849, or as they traversed the Oregon Trail.  In 1860, the mineral was discovered at Pierce – the first of several gold rushes in Idaho – and that increased migration to the region.  For the period of 1860 to 1866, Idaho produced 19% of all the gold in the United States.  After Oregon had become a state in 1859, Idaho was split between the Washington and Dakota Territories, before President Lincoln created the Idaho Territory in 1863 – at the time including parts of Montana and Wyoming, but by 1868 it had been reduced to its current size.

Settlers from different backgrounds arrived in Idaho during this time: Mormons established the first town there, Franklin, in 1860, thinking they were still in the Utah Territory and unaware that they had crossed the border; many Irish people, who left their homeland during the Potato Famine, headed to North America, with many ultimately settling in Idaho due to its favourable conditions for agricultural development; Basque people moved to the state in search of opportunity; and much of the current population can trace their heritage back to German and English immigrants to the area in the late 19th and early 20th century.  By 1890, the number of residents had increased to nearly 90,000 and, on July 3rd of that year, Idaho became the 43rd state of the Union.

Idaho is the 14th largest state in the US and its more than 1.5 million residents rank it 39th in terms of population.  The biggest sector in its economy is science and technology, which accounts for roughly one-quarter of the state’s total revenue.  Most notably, Micron Technology – the only manufacturer of Dynamic Random Access Memory chips in the nation – is based in Boise; and ON Semiconductor, a major innovator in that field, is headquartered in Pocatello.  Agriculture remains a major industry for Idaho, with it most famous output being potatoes, of which it produces one-third of the nation’s total each year.  There is some tourism in the state, with Shoshone Falls – dubbed the Niagara of the West – and ski resorts like Sun Valley being the most popular destinations.  In 1925, the entire town of American Falls was relocated to allow for the construction of a dam.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 4

2008 Result: McCain 61.5% Obama 36.1%

Latest Poll: Romney +36%

Idaho has been won by the Republican candidate in each of the last 11 Presidential election and, given Governor Romney has his largest lead in the polls there, that streak will continue this November.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is little of interest in the Congressional elections in Idaho this November.  No Senate seats are being contested, while the two incumbent Representatives in the House – both of whom are Republicans – are strongly favor to win another term.

50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 42. Washington

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

42. Washington

Capital: Olympia

Nickname: The Evergreen State

Motto: Alki


About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Washington was home to various Native American tribes including the Chinook, Lummi and Makah around the coastal regions; and the Cayuse, Nez Perce and Spokane in the plateau areas.  The first person from the Old World to be recorded as having set foot in Washington was the Spaniard, Juan Perez, who landed there in 1774, four years before the British explorer, Captain James Cook reported sighting Cape Flattery.  Over the next few decades, traders and pioneers from several countries – including Britain, Russia, Spain and the newly formed United States – conducted expeditions there, including Lewis and Clark, who reached Washington in 1805.

As part of the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1919, Spain had ceded all rights to land about the 42nd parallel (the border between the modern-day states of California and Oregon), and the year before, Britain and the United States had set the 49th parallel (which constitutes the boundary between the US and Canada) as the border between the two nations, but only as far as the Continental Divide, with Oregon Country being jointly occupied by them both.  As more American settlers moved to the region via the Oregon Trail, they clamoured for it to become annexed by the United States and, in his inaugural address in 1845, President James K. Polk expressed his belief that the US was entitled to Oregon Country.  Some in the Democratic Party were clamouring for Polk to fight for the boundary with Britain to be set at “54’40” – which at the time was the border with Russian America, and now is the line between Alaska and Canada – but the two countries resolved the dispute in 1846, with the 49th parallel being (approximately) used from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

When the Oregon Territory was organised in 1848, it included all of Washington, but the growing population led Congress to separate it into its own Territory in 1853.  Between 1847 and 1855, the United States fought a war with the Cayuse tribe, a conflict that was initiated by the Whitman Massacre which took place at the Whitman Mission, located where the city of Walla Walla now stands.  Marcus Whitman was a missionary among the Cayuse at Waiilatpu and, as a physician and religious leader, he was considered a shaman by the indigenous population.  When an outbreak of measles at the camp resulted in the deaths of half of the Native Americans, who had no natural immunity to the disease, Whitman was blamed by the Cayuse and they killed him, his wife Narcissa, and 12 other settlers.  The tribe handed over five people they claimed to be responsible for the massacre to the United States in 1850 but, despite their trial and execution for the crime, the conflict continued until 1855, by which time the number of Cayuse was greatly reduced and they had given up most of their land.

During the 1850s, settlers were attracted to Washington Territory for the lumber industry and many single young men also moved to the Puget Sound area, where the city of Seattle was established in 1853 (though it was first called Duwamps) and in which gambling, liquor and prostitution were omnipresent.  In 1889, Washington became the 42nd state of the Union, joining within 10 days of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.  Although women had been allowed to vote when it was a territory, their suffrage was revoked as part of the state’s first constitution, though they did get it back in 1910, ten years before the 19th Amendment was passed guaranteeing females the right nationally.

Washington is the 18th biggest state in area and, with just over 6.8 million residents, ranks 13th in terms of population.  Agriculture is a major part of the state’s economy, with it producing the most amount of raspberries, apples, sweet cherries and pears in the nation, and it ranks second in wine output behind California.  75% of Washington’s energy comes from hydroelectric power – of which it is the leading producer in the United States – and its ports handle 8% of the country’s exports, as well as receiving 6% of the imports.  Major companies headquartered within the state include Starbucks, Boeing, and Microsoft – the latter of whom’s chairman, Bill Gates, is resident of Washington and consistently ranked as one of the richest men in the United States.  Seattle is home to two “Big Four” sports teams – the Seattle Mariners (MLB) and Seattle Seahawks (NFL).

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 12

2008 Result: Obama 57.4% McCain 40.7%

Latest Poll: Obama +13%

Starting in 1988, Washington has voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate in each of the last six elections, with this year’s ballot likely to go the same way – President Obama carried the state by a wide margin in 2008 and is all but certain to do so again this November.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Washington this year, with incumbent Democrat Sen. Maria Cantwell running against Republican candidate, Michael Baumgartner, currently serving as a State Senator.  Cantwell is heavily favoured to win a third term.

After redistricting as a result of the 2010 census, Washington’s number of Representatives in the House will increase by 1, starting in January 2013.  The current delegation is made up of 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans, with the ratio expected to be 6:4 after the election as the Democrats are expected to win the new district, with the other 9 remaining with their current party affiliation.

Governor: With Governor Christine Gregoire (D) not seeking re-election after serving two terms in office, 2013 will be the first time since 2005 that the state of Washington will have a male as either Governor or Senator.  The candidates in November are the Democrat, Jay Inslee, and Republican Rob McKenna, with the race currently considered a toss-up.

Ballot Measures: Washington is one of four states that will vote on the legalization of gay marriage, with the measure (Amendment 74) expected to pass, but the latest poll showed 49% of people in favour, with 45% against.  Also on the ballot is Initiative 502, that would legalize the production, possession and distribution of small amounts of marijuana, with the substance subsequently being taxed. The initiative is expected to pass by a wide margin.

50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 41. Montana

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

41. Montana

Capital: Helena

Nickname: Big Sky Country

Motto: Oro y Plata

(Gold and Silver)

About the State

Montana is the fourth largest state in the US in area, but ranks 44th in number of inhabitants, with just under a million residents, making it the third least densely populated – behind Wyoming and Alaska.  Before the area was settled by whites, it was home to Native Americans from various tribes including the Cheyenne, Crow and Blackfeet.  The region to the east of the continental divide – which includes everything except the portion of Montana that appears to have bitten a chunk out of Idaho in the Northwest – was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, when the United States doubled its size by acquiring territory from the French.

The first settlement established in Montana by immigrants from the Old World, was the St. Mary’s Mission, begun in 1841 and which was located at the site of the present day city of Stevensville.  After being part of the Dakota and Idaho Territories, the discovery of gold in the region led to the creation of the Montana Territory in 1864, the borders of which have remained to this day, including extending out to the Bitter Root Mountains in the northwest.

One of the most infamous military engagements in the nation’s history – the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand – was fought in Montana in June of 1876 as part of the conflict between the United States and the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux tribes of Native Americans.  Although the battle was a victory for the Lakota – the only survivor from Custer’s forces was his horse, Comanche – in the longterm it resulted in more troops being sent by the United States and ultimately, a year later, the Native Americans had surrendered and given up their land around the Black Hill mountains.

Settlers moved to the Territory to mine for gold silver and copper, and to set up cattle ranches, with the population increasing further when the railroads reached the region in the 1880s.  On November 8th, 1889 Montana became the 41st state of the Union and its economy continued to develop through the mining of natural resources – including the discoveries of coal and oil – agriculture, where alongside cattle ranching, it also now ranks second in the nation for the production of lentils and barley.  Tourism is also a major sector of Montana’s economy, with the major attractions being Glacier National Park – which has 250 lakes – and Yellowstone National Park, as well as the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn.  The state has more species of mammals than any other and the average square mile in Montana has 1.4 elk, 3.3 deer and 6 humans.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 3

2008 Result: McCain 49.7% Obama 47.2%

Latest Poll: Romney +10%

Despite the state currently being represented by two Democrats in the Senate, Republicans have carried Montana in 13 of the last 15 Presidential elections, with the only exceptions being Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and Bill Clinton in 1992.  President Obama was not too far behind Senator McCain in the 2008 election there, but Governor Romney currently holds a double-digit lead in the polls and is expected to extend the GOP’s record of success in the state.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Montana this November, with incumbent Democrat, Sen. John Tester, seeking a second term against the current Congressman for the state, Rep. Danny Rehberg (R).  Current polls suggest the race is a toss-up, with Rehberg less than a point ahead, and the race is considered crucial to the chances of both the Democrats and the Republicans in their fight to have control of the Senate when the new session begins in January.

With Rehberg – the state’s one Representative in the House – seeking election to the Senate rather than defend his seat, the race for the At-Large district in Montana will be between Steven Daines (R) and Kim Gillan (D), with Daines expected to win.

50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 40. South Dakota

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

40. South Dakota


Nickname: The Mount Rushmore State

Motto: Under God, The People Rule

About the State

Like North Dakota, prior to the arrival of European settlers, South Dakota was home to various Native American tribes – including the Sioux, Chippewa and Arikara.  The two Dakotas share much of their history up until they joined the Union as separate states in 1889 – they were both first claimed by the French as part of the Louisiana Territory, before being transferred to Spanish control in 1762 after the Seven Years’ War and later sold to the United States – having been regained for France by Napoloen – in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.  Initially, the region was settled by fur traders, but demand from Europe dropped in the 1840s and many people left in search of other opportunities elsewhere.  By the 1850s, land speculators arrived and the towns Sioux Falls and Yankton in southern South Dakota were established in 1856 and 1859 respectively.

The Yankton Sioux signed a treaty in 1858 ceding most of the region to the United State and, three years later, the Dakota Territory was organised, which included all of the modern-day states of North and South Dakota, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana.  The Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed by the United States in 1868; in it they recognised that the Black Hills in the western part of South Dakota would be owned by the Lakota Sioux.  However, after an expedition led by George A. Custer discovered gold in the area in 1874 and the United States failed to stop miners from entering the region, despite not being granted rights to do so by the Sioux, resulting in the outbreak of a war.  The Natives were defeated, but a 1980 Supreme Court case – United States vs Sioux Nation of Indians – ruled that the tribe should be compensated for the Black Hills, though the Sioux have to this day refused to accept the money, instead wanting the land returned to them.

The settlement of Deadwood was established in the 1870s and a gold rush in the middle of the decade attracted many prospectors to the area.  However it was considered an illegal town in Native American territory and became known for lawlessness and murders, most notably of the famed gunfighter, Wild Bill Hickok in 1876.  In 1889, the Territory’s population had increased such that it was divided in half and became the states of North and South Dakota, the 39th and 40th states of the Union, though the exact order will never be known as President Harrison insisted the proclamations be shuffled by his Secretary of State, James Blaine, prior to him signing them.  A year later, the last armed conflict took place between the United States and the Lakota Sioux at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which resulted in the death of around 300 Native Americans – around two-thirds of whom were women and children – in the Wounded Knee Massacre.

In comparison to the few visitors that its northern neighbor attracts, tourism is South Dakota’s second biggest economic sector (behind the service industry) with around 3 million people a year going to the state, most of whom go to visit Mount Rushmore.  The sculpture of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt was carved into the mountainside to represent the first 150 years of American history and, although the four men were originally going to be depicted from head to waist, construction ended in 1941 when funding for the project ran out.  South Dakota is the 17th largest state in the Union and, with just over 820,000 residents, ranks 46th in terms of population.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 3

2008 Result: McCain 53.2% Obama 44.7%

Latest Poll: Romney +11%

The last time North and South Dakota did not vote for the same candidate in a Presidential election was in 1916, when Woodrow Wilson carried North Dakota in his successful re-election bid, but the south went to Republican Charles Hughes.  Neither have voted for a Democrat as President since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and it is a certainty that South Dakota will again match its near namesake as both will send their 3 Electoral College Votes to Governor Romney.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There are no Senate elections in South Dakota this November.  The state has one “At-Large” district for the House of Representatives and that seat is currently held by Republican, Kristi Noem, who is expected to win a second term in office against the Democratic candidate, Matt Varilek.

This week in: English Football – Chelsea vs Manchester United and the Merseyside Derby

Juan Mata Tottenham’s defence didn’t deal with

Last Saturday, Chelsea maintained their lead at the top of the Premiership with an emphatic 4-2 win against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, their first league victory on that ground since 2005.  Their victory came courtesy of a great performance from their Spanish midfielder, Juan Mata, who scored two, made one and caused problems for the Spurs defence throughout the game.  Chelsea took the lead on 17 minutes, when William Gallas’ attempt to clear a corner, but only found the right foot of Gary Cahill on the edge of the box and the central defender hit a fantastic volley into the roof of the net.  Tottenham were without the injured Moussa Dembélé in the middle of the park and had Gareth Bale withdraw shortly before kick-off, as his partner had gone into labour – she gave birth to a baby girl the following day – but despite the absence of two of their best players this season, Spurs still managed to take the lead with two quick goals at the start of the second half, scored by Gallas and Jermain Defoe.  Nevertheless, Chelsea were not to be denied and two more mistakes from Gallas, who made another poor clearance to gift Juan Mata an equaliser, before his oor positioning allowed the same player to sneak in behind the defence and latch onto a through ball from Eden Hazard to give them the lead, secured the three points for DiMatteo’s side.  They finished off their day with a late goal from substitute, Daniel Sturridge, who poked home from no more than a yard out, after a mistake by Kyle Walker had allowed Mata the freedom of the Tottenham penalty area.  Although losing to London rivals is always a bitter pill to swallow and the performances of Sigurddsson and Dempsey – both of whom were caught in possession many times when they should have looked for a quick pass – were worryingly bad, overall Spurs style of play and desire made the match more enjoyable that the opening few fixtures of the season.  With Hazard, Oscar and Mata in their side to open up opponents, Chelsea will beat a lot of good teams this year; last Saturday, it was Tottenham.

Norwich secured their first win of the campaign last weekend, surprising many with a 1-0 win over Arsenal, who had 62% of the possession, but could not translate that into a goal.  Manchester City came from behind to take three points once again, thanks to two late goals from substitute Edin Dzeko in their match away at West Brom; while Wayne Rooney found the net three times against Stoke, once into his own goal and twice in the right end, in Manchester United’s 4-2 victory; Liverpool finally triumphed at home in the league, beating second-bottom Reading, 1-0 at Anfield; and Everton earned a draw away at QPR, despite having to play the final 30 minutes with 10 men following Steven Pienaar’s harsh sending off for a collision with Jose Bosingwa.  In the Tyne-Wear derby, Newcastle also had to play a man down for the majority of the game, after Chieck Tiote was sent off midway through the first-half for a reckless challenge on Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher.  At the time, Pardew’s men were a goal to the good as Cabaye had netted in the third minute and their lead lasted all the way to the final five minutes, before Demba Ba headed into his own goal to give the Black Cats a share of the points.  Ba, who is Newcastle’s leading scorer in the Premiership with 6 goals this season, also ranks in second place for Sunderland, as Fletcher has scored all five of their other league goals in the campaign.

The other fixtures last weekend saw West Ham thrash Southampton 4-1 at the Boleyn Ground; Wigan lost 2-1 away at Swansea; and Fulham beat Aston Villa 1-0 at home.  Perhaps the biggest talking point that came out of the latest round of fixtures was the refusal by some players to wear the “Kick It Out” T-shirts that were being worn during warm-ups to support the campaign to get rid of racism from football.  Jason Roberts, Anton and Rio Ferdinand, and several other black footballers, as well as the entire Wigan and Swansea teams, protested their belief that not enough was being done by the Football Association to confront the problem – in light of their relatively lenient four game ban of John Terry for racial abuse – by not wearing the shirts.  Roberts has stated he will continue this stance this weekend and until he believes something more is done by the FA to actively end racism, as simply raising awareness of the issue does not, by itself, provide the cure. Continue reading

This week in: The NFL – Week 8 2012

Rob Ninkovich forces a fumble from Mark Sanchez in OT to setup the Patriots’ win

The New England Patriots sneaked past the New York Jets in overtime last Sunday, winning a game in which they both threw away a big lead and came from behind to force the extra period.  Trailing 23-13 heading into the fourth quarter, Mark Sanchez led the Jets down the field on a 14 play, seven-minute drive to bring them back within three, then had to settle for a field goal to tie the game on their next possession, after wide receiver Stephen Hill dropped a pass on third down.  From the resulting kickoff, the Patriots fumbled and Antonio Allen recovered the ball with the Jets, who moved into a three-point lead following another Nick Folk field goal.  However, Tom Brady led New England to tie the game as time expired in regulation, then a forced fumble by Sanchez on the first drive in overtime allowed the Patriots to win 26-23, through another Stephen Gostkowski kick.  While it was not an emphatic win for Bill Belichick’s team, a narrow win over a divisional rival – having lost three games in the last two minutes already this season – should give them confidence for the rest of the season.  After the four teams in the AFC East had been all tied with 3-3 records going into the weekend fixtures, New England now has sole possession of first place thanks to defeating the Jets, while the Bills lost at home, 35-34 against the Titans, and the Dolphins had their bye week.

At the end of their game against Washington, many of the New York Giants players were effusive in their praise of the Redskins’ quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 89 yards.  It was easy for the Giants to be magnanimous about one of their opponents, as Griffin’s performance came in a losing effort, with Eli Manning leading the home team to a 27-23 victory via a 77 yard touchdown pass to Victory Cruz with little more than a minute remaining.  Also in the NFC East, the Cowboys moved back to an even record for the season with a 19-14 win in their road game against the Carolina Panthers, while the Philadelphia Eagles were inactive.

The Minnesota Vikings continued their impressive start to the year, beating the Cardinals 21-14 at home, in large part thanks to running back, Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown and has completely overcome the ACL and MCL injuries he suffered at the tail end of the 2011 season.  That result means the Vikings record for far this year is five wins and two defeats , putting them a half game behind the Bears, whose 13-7 win over the Lions on Monday night moved them to 5-1.  Chicago’s sole loss came against Green Bay, whose 30-20 success in St. Louis gave them consecutive fixtures for the first time this season, after an inconsistent start had seen them lose three of their first five.  The bad news for the Packers was an injury to safety Charles Woodson, who will be out for six weeks with a broken collar-bone.  Continue reading

50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 39. North Dakota

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

39. North Dakota

Capital: Bismarck

Nickname: The Peace Garden State

Motto: Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, North Dakota was home to various Native American tribes including the Sioux, Chippewa and Arikara.  In the first half of the 18th century, French Canadian fur traders were the first from the Old World to explore the area, but there was no attempts made to establish settlements in the area.  That land had been claimed by France as part of the Louisiana Purchase, which had transferred to Spanish control in 1763 following the Seven Years’ War, before Napoleon retook possession of the colony in 1800 and sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  However, part of the region in the north of the state had remained under British control until the Treaty of 1818 ceded it to America and the boundary with Canada was set.

After being part of the Minnesota and Nebraska Territories, the Dakota Territory was established in 1861, which included an area which covered North and South Dakota, as well as Wyoming and Montana.  It was not until late in the 1800s that settlement of the region began to increase significantly, as the Northern Pacific Railroad extended into the territory and people moved to the Red River Valley to work in commercial agriculture.  On November 2nd, 1889, North Dakota became the 39th state of the Union…or the 40th – South Dakota was joining at the same time and President Harrison, to abate the rivalry between the two, requested that his Secretary of State, James Blaine, shuffle the proclamation papers so that he would not know which one he was admitting first.  Since the exact order will never be known, it has become convention to list North Dakota, which is alphabetically first, as the 39th state.  By the early 20th century, settlers had come from other parts of America, including a large group of people of Scandinavian origin, and Germans who moved to North Dakota from Russia and established what became known as the “German-Russian Triangle” in the southern part of the state.

In 1915, the Non-Partisan League was formed in North Dakota, which was a left-wing political movement designed to stop big banks and corporations from gaining too much control in the state.  The majority of its members were wheat farmers – in particular Norwegian Americans – and the group established the Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Mill and Elevator, both of which are still in existence today.  By the 1950s, the NPL had been incorporated into the Democratic Party.

The state’s economy remains centered around agriculture, with its main outputs being corn, wheat, oats and buckwheat, in which it ranks second in the country for production.  Energy is North Dakota’s other major employment sector, in particular oil, but also renewable sources such as wind.  Since 1987, unemployment in the state has not dropped below 5% and as of September 2012, its rate of 3.0% is the lowest in the country.

North Dakota is the 19th state in terms of area and, with fewer than 700,000 residents, it ranks as the third least populated.  The city of Rugby is the geographical center of North America, and the state has more churches per capita than any other in the nation.  No Presidents have been born from the state, nor are there any “Big Four” sports teams, but Roger Maris – who broke the single season home run record in 1961 while playing with the New York Yankees – grew up in Fargo.  In tourism, it is the least visited of the 50 states and there have been several attempts in the past to change the name to “Dakota”, dropping the “North” with the theory being that it is associated with a cold and unpleasant place to visit.  Another possible explanation for the lack of tourists wanting to visit is the lack of any notable attractions in the state.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes:3

2008 Result: McCain 53.3% Obama 44.7%

Latest Poll: Romney +14%

Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second electoral win (out of 4) in 1936, North Dakota has been won by the Democratic candidate just once – in 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson took all but 6 states in the south against Barry Goldwater.  That trend will continue this November as Governor Romney is sure to carry the state and gain its three Electoral College Votes

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate seat being contested in North Dakota this November, with the Democratic party incumbent, Sen. Kent Conrad, retiring rather than seeking another term.  Conrad was first elected in 1986, but made a promise not to stand for re-election should the Federal Budget Deficit not be reduced during his term.  When it was not, he kept his word and did not run for his seat in 1992, but when the other Senator for the state, Quentin Burdick, died in September of that year, Conrad contested the special election to replace him.  After winning the ballot, Conrad resigned one Senate seat in North Dakota to take up the other one on the same day, a unique even in US political history.  This year’s battle is considered a toss-up between Rick Berg (R) and Heidi Heitkamp (D), with both parties focusing on a race that could determine who has control of the Senate in the next Congress.

There is one At Large district for North Dakota in the House of Representatives, with the current incumbent being Rick Berg, who is contesting the Senate election rather than seeking another term.  The Congressional race is between Kevin Cramer (R) and Pam Gulleson, with the GOP candidate expected to win.

Gubernatorial: Governor Jack Dalrymple is seeking a full four-year term after assuming the office in 2010 when the man who had held the office before him, John Hoeven, was elected to the U.S. Senate.  Dalrymple currently has a 35 point lead in the polls over his Democratic Party rival, Ryan Taylor.

Ballot Measures: Measure 1 on the North Dakota ballot this year proposes ending the legislative assembly’s authority to levy a poll tax, as well as removing offensive language from the article in the state’s constitution which gives it this power.  The current text of Section 6 of Article X currently reads as follows:

The legislative assembly may provide for the levy, collection and disposition of an annual poll tax of not more than one dollar and fifty cents on every male inhabitant of this state over twenty-one and under fifty years of age, except paupers, idiots, insane persons and Indians not taxed.

There are also measures to allow residents to vote on a ban on smoking in all indoor workplaces; to ensure ranchers and farmers are able to use modern practices in perpetuity; and that would make the harming of a dog, cat or horse a category C felony.