50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 32. Minnesota

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

32. Minnesota

Capital: Saint Paul

Nickname: North Star State

Motto: L’Etoile du Nord

(The State of the North)

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Minnesota was occupied by the Sioux tribe of Native Americans, with the Ojibwe and Anishinaabe migrating to the area later, as they were pushed west by colonists.  The French were the first from the Old World to claim the land, but they were mostly interested in establishing fur trade in the region and did not set about establishing a permanent presence there.  The land to the east of the Mississippi was given up by France to Britain in 1763, following defeat in the Seven Years’ War, and this portion of Minnesota was then ceded to the United States after the Revolutionary War ended twenty years later.   Spain had gained control of the Louisiana Territory from the first Treaty of Paris, which included the area west of the Mississippi that is in the area and, after Napoleon had acquired this back, it was sold to America as part of the Louisiana purchase in 1803.

Although few settlers moved to the region in the early 20th century, the US did build Fort Snelling in 1825, which later grew to become Minneapolis, while a camp that was made nearby was the origins of Saint Paul – together the Twin Cities.  The Fort was later a training center for Union soldiers during the Civil War.  By the 1850s, treaties with the Native Americans had allowed more people to migrate to Minnesota and both loggers and farmers found opportunities there.  Having been, at various times. part of the Northwest, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa Territories, the Minnesota Territory was established in 1849.  Application for statehood was delayed as the south believed that the next to be accepted should be a pro-slavery state, but the obstacle was cleared by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which reversed the north/south boundary on where slavery was accepted that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had established, and allowed for territories to choose whether they entered the Union as either a free or slave state.  On May 11th, 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd state of America and, at the outbreak of the Civil War three years later, it remained loyal to President Lincoln, sending around 22,000 men to serve in the Union forces.  While that conflict was going on, the state also had to contend with the Dakota War of 1862, a six-week battle between the Dakota people – who were suffering severe food shortages – and the state militia, which ended up with the conviction of 303 Native Americans.

Minnesota is the 12th largest state in the US and its 5.3 million residents ranks it 21st in terms of population.  Although less than 1% of the people are employed in farming, agriculture remains a major industry for the state, with it being the top producer of sugar beets, farm-raised turkeys, green beans and sweet corn in the nation.  Other major sectors include forestry, such as logging and paper production; iron-ore mining; and manufacturing; while some of the major companies headquartered in Minnesota are Target, 3M, Best Buy and General Mills.  There are four “Big Four” sports teams who are based in the state: Minnesota Twins (MLB); Minnesota Vikings (NFL); Minnesota Wild (NHL); and the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA).  No Presidents have been born in the state, but Walter Mondale – Jimmy Carter’s VP and the loser of the 1984 election – was a native Minnesotan.  With one vessel for every six people, the state has the highest number of boats per capita in the USA.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 10

2008 Result: Obama 54.2% McCain 44.0%

Latest Poll: Obama +8%

Minnesota has been won by the Democratic candidate in each of the last 9 Presidential contests, the longest streak of any state (although the District of Columbia has gone blue in all 12 elections it has been represented in the Electoral College) as it as it was the only one to give its votes to Walter Mondale in 1984.  While President Obama’s lead in the polls is far from insurmountable, he is still a strong favourite to carry Minnesota this November.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election this November, with Democratic Party incumbent, Amy Klobuchar, seeking a second term against Republican candidate, Kurt Bills.  Klobuchar is strong favourite to retain her seat for another six years.

Minnesota has 8 Representatives in the House and the current delegation is split down the middle, with four Republicans and four Democrats.  Two of the seats currently held by the GOP are expected to be close races: the 8th district is a toss-up between Rep. Chip Cravaack and the Democrat challenger, Rick Nolan; while one-time Republican Presidential Nomination front-runner, Michele Bachmann is expected to win a fourth term representing the 6th district, but could be beaten by Democrat, Jim Graves.

There is also a ballot measure in Minnesota that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  Latest polls suggest that it will be close as to whether or not the measure passes.

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