This is part three of my series looking at the political geography of elections at the state level. In it, I present maps and data for the average of statewide races from 2004 to present by county for each state and by precinct where data is available. This is to give you a better visual idea of which parts of a state are more or less friendly to each party. Additionally, I compare Obama's 2008 performance to the average to see which areas he performs better or worse than would be expected by a local Democrat. You can find part 1 on the Northeast and part 2 on the Southeast here.
Partisan Average includes 2004, 2008, and 2010 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, and comptroller.
First off is Illinois, which as President Obama's home state see's a bit of a native son boost, at least in part of the state. Don't be confused by the PVI map at first though, While only three counties are more Democratic than the state, Cook County has a whopping 40% of the voting age population and is significantly more Democratic than the rest of Illinois. Add to it that Illinois is quite Democratic and many of those pink counties are still relatively Democratic.
As you can see, Democrats have a fairly standard coalition of urban areas such as Chicago and some more historically rural counties downstate, but surprisingly also in the historically Republican inner suburbs of Chicago. Republicans do best (at least at the county level) in central, southeastern, and northwestern Illinois.
Obama's home state advantage can make comparisons to the average somewhat tenuous, but from the second map it should be obvious that this native son effect was limited to certain parts of the state. Obama outperformed the most in northwestern Illinois, home to cities such as Rockford, as well as Chicagoland suburbs such as DuPage County. He performed slightly better, at least compared to a non-native such as John Kerry, in west-central Illinois in places such as Rock Island, Peoria, and Springfield, as well as seeing some marginal improvement in Cook County. If we had precinct level results, Cook County itself is probably skewed by the fact that much of the heavily black areas of Chicago are already maxed out and that Obama did indeed overperform significantly in the suburbs.
On the other hand though, Obama underperforms significantly in Republican trending but historically Democratic southern Illinois, which makes me feel better about holding the open 12th district in November. Many of these counties were went for Bill Clinton and John McCain, while many of the northern Illinois Counties went for Bob Dole and Barack Obama. This trend is noticeable across much of the Ohio River region states as we'll see in states such as Indiana and Ohio.
Partisan Average includes 2004 and 2010 senate, 2004 and 2008 governor and attorney general, and 2006 and 2010 secretary of state, treasurer, and auditor.
Democratic strength in Indiana consists primarily of three different regions: Chicagoland northwest Indiana, urban and inner suburban Indianapolis, and more rural southern Indiana. Republican strength in the state is based around the blood red Indianapolis suburbs and exurbs, as well as the non-urban parts of central and northeastern Indiana.
Looking at how Obama compares to the average, the first point to keep in mind is that hey, Obama actually won Indiana and thus performs better than most Democrats across much of the state. His best area of relative performance is in central Indiana, particularly in the Indianapolis suburbs, as well as in north and northeastern Indiana. However, he underperforms quite significantly in southern Indiana which has historically been quite friendly to Democrats.
Partisan Average includes 2004, 2008, and 2010 senate, 2006 and 2010 governor and secretary of state, and 2010 treasurer, attorney general, and auditor.
Unlike Illinois and Indiana, Iowa is much less urban and particularly less suburban. However, Democrats do better in the state's rural areas and small towns. Geographically, Dems do better in the eastern part of the state and worse in the west, particularly in the northwest corner.
Like much of the northern Mississippi river region, Obama overperformed relative to the average and this is true in much of eastern Iowa. Additionally, Obama overperforms in western Iowa, particularly the southwest corner across the border from Omaha. He underperforms modestly in central Iowa and actually a significant amount in south central Iowa along the Missouri border.
Partisan Average includes 2004, 2008, and 2010 senate, 2006 governor and attorney general, and 2010 governor.
Kansas is the first of the Plains states in this group and like most of these states has a long history of having a very Republican western half. Democrats don't do nearly as well in rural areas as they do in states such as Iowa. In general, Obama performed better than average essentially in all of the cities and most of the suburbs while doing relatively worse in rural areas.
Partisan Average includes 2006 and 2008 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.
In Michigan, Democrats are able to win statewide usually by running up the margins in the Detroit area as well as Ann Arbor, Lansing, Flint, and some other cities such as Battle Creek and Saginaw among others. Additionally, local Dems do well in the rural but labor friendly Upper Peninsula. Comparing Obama to the average, the most striking difference is how much he underperformed in the upper peninsula as well as the tri-cities area. Obama does much better in the Detroit suburbs and heavily Republican western Michigan. This pattern is even more striking at the precinct level, which compares Obama's 2008 performance to the 2006 local average.
Partisan Average includes 2006 and 2008 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and auditor.
Democrats in Minnesota on average do well in the urban and inner suburban parts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, the more industrial Iron Rage to the northeast, as well as more agricultural rural areas in western and southern Minnesota. Conversely, Republicans dominate the metro area exurbs and the rural farming areas of the central and southwestern part of the state.
Obama didn't compete in much of Minnesota and effectively ceded the airwaves to McCain as the state was safe. This as well as his positions and profile caused him to underperform significantly in the normally Democratic Iron Range and the rural parts of central Minnesota that don't share North Dakota's media markets. He overperforms in the Dem trending southeast, the metro suburbs, and the northwest of the state due to his investment into winning North Dakota in 2008. Especially relevant to the upcoming 2012 elections is just how poorly Obama did in the Iron Range and should give you an idea of just how difficult Chip Cravaack's path to reelection is, despite the 8th congressional district being a nominal swing district.
Partisan Average includes 2004, 2006, and 2010 senate, 2004 and 2008 governor, lt. governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, 2006 and 2010 auditor, and 2004 treasurer.
Missouri Democrats tend to win the state by doing very well in the large urban areas such as St. Louis and Kansas City while also winning areas such as Columbia, suburban St. Louis County, and the counties south of it such as Jefferson. Additionally, Democrats tend to perform well in the areas along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers even if they don't win them out right. Republicans though absolutely dominate in the deep red Ozarks as well as central Missouri, including the capital of Jefferson City. They also do well in rural northern Missouri.
Comparing Obama to the average, our tripartite trend continues to hold up. Obama overperforms in the urban areas, even relatively Republican cities such as Springfield, does considerably better in suburban areas such as St. Louis County, and then underperforms in pretty much all of the rural areas. Obama does particularly poorly compared to the average in southeastern and north-central Missouri. These trends should continue in the future for the national Democratic ticket as Missouri gets slightly more Republican than the nation with each election cycle.
I initially tried to do this analysis at the precinct level, but the precinct data on DRA looks very suspect and seems to give way too much weight to house races compared to statewide races. In short, the precinct data just looked wrong.
Partisan Average includes 2006 and 2008 senate, 2006 and 2010 governor and secretary of state, 2006 auditor, and 2010 treasurer.
Taking a look at our second Plains state, we see that the Democratic base consists of cities such as Omaha and Lincoln, as well as heavily Native American counties such as Thurston in the northeast. Additionally, Democrats tend to do better in the southeast, but as Dems lose big on average, these areas are still quite Republican.
As you might have guessed given that Obama won the 2nd congressional district's electoral vote, Obama overperformed significantly in the eastern part of the state, specifically the greater Omaha area. Obama does significantly worse in heavily rural and Republican central and western Nebraska, essentially the 3rd congressional district, though as a whole we can probably conclude that he does better than what a Democrat "should" get statewide.
Take note that the precinct level data is heavily weighted by the 2006 and 2008 house elections in which 3rd district and then senate nominee Scott Kleeb way overperformed in western Nebraska. Unlike Missouri though I think this data set is still worth including.
Partisan Average includes 2004, 2006, and 2010 senate and house, 2008 house, 2004 and 2008 governor, treasurer, auditor, and insurance commissioner, and 2004, 2006, and 2010 secretary of state and attorney general.
North Dakota, unlike the Plains states to the south, doesn't exhibit nearly as much east-west polarization. Democrats do tend to do better in the east and worse in the west but the margin of difference isn't as large. Additionally, Dems do really well in the heavily Native American areas as is typical nationally.
Unlike the partisan average, Obama's performance does demonstrate a much more typical east-west divide. Obama's candidacy would seem to resonate much less with the extraction-industry heavy west while the more agriculture based east has more in common with western Minnesota.
Partisan Average includes 2004, 2006, and 2010 senate, 2006 and 2010 governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and attorney general, and 2010 auditor.
Next up is Ohio which has a fairly interesting mix of elements in the Dem coalition. Democrats rack up big margins in the quintessential rust-belt cities of Akron, Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown while also performing strongly in Dem trending cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton, though the latter two are surrounded by blood red suburbs. Additionally, Dems perform well in the rural areas along the Ohio river valley and eastern Ohio, including more liberal towns such as Athens. Republicans dominate western and central Ohio outside of the more Democratic cities and rack up huge margins in the suburbs of Cincinnati and Dayton.
In terms of Obama's performance, you can immediately see that he lagged significantly below average along the Ohio river counties and southern and eastern Ohio in general. He performs above average in the more historically Republican cities of central and western Ohio as well as their suburbs and in particular overperforms in the northwest of the state. As with other congressional districts, the 6th district is one where despite McCain winning by a substantial margin, Democrats are still competitive locally.
Looking at the precinct level, which is comprised of the 2006 statewide average, you can practically see the outline of Ted Strickland's old 6th congressional district along the Ohio river. Additionally, you can see just how much better Obama does in the cities and suburbs of western and central Ohio, as well as heavily black eastern Cleveland.
Partisan Average includes 2004 and 2008 senate, 2004, 2004 special, 2006, and 2008 house, 2006 and 2010 governor and attorney general, and 2010 treasurer and auditor.
South Dakota, like North Dakota, sees Democrats do better in the east and worse in the west though not by an enormous margin. The state is also one of the more heavily Native American and predictably sees Democrats rack up huge margins in the reservations.
Like with North Dakota, Obama performs somewhat better in eastern South Dakota and worse in the west and central parts of the state that are non-Native American.
Partisan Average includes 2004, 2006, and 2010 senate, 2006 and 2010 governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and attorney general, and 2012 governor and lt. governor recalls.
Our last state is Wisconsin, where the Democratic path to victory consists of performing strongly in urban Milwaukee, liberal Madison, the rural Driftless Area, as well as the more Native American areas in the north of the state. Republicans tend to dominate in the Milwaukee suburbs, or as my fellow DKErs like to call the "Circle of Ignorance", and northern Wisconsin including the Fox valley.
In 2008 Obama performed well above what is typical statewide though it wasn't uniform. His one area of raw underperformance was in northwestern Wisconsin where he didn't run ads in the media markets that mostly cover Minnesota. Compared to the average Dem who wins by a similar margin, Obama underperformed relatively in the Madison and Milwaukee areas. On the other hand, Obama overperformed strongly in the Fox valley cities such as Green Bay and Appleton, central parts of the state such as Steven's Point, as well as the southwest corner of the state. As with Ohio, these patterns become even more apparent when one looks at the precinct level which uses the 2010 statewide average. In terms of this years elections, Obama's numbers understate Dem strength in the 1st and 7th district while overstating it in the 8th.
I hope you found these maps to be useful visualizations of the elections in each of these states. As the purpose of this series is mostly to provide data and graphics, I welcome discussion as to why certain regions in states favor Democrats or Republicans and particularly why Obama's electoral performance diverges from local Democrats. Part 4 will cover the Western United States.