Looking back at Minnesota's past presidential candidates

Sen. Amy Klobuchar not only enters an increasingly crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field, but also joins the ranks of previous Minnesota politicians who competed in America's biggest political contest.

While Minnesota historically counts two vice presidents among its native sons, its presidential candidates haven't fared very well, despite some kind of participation in several races for the office since the 1940s.

Klobuchar is a popular senator, as evidenced by her polling and dominant election victories, including 2018's 60 percent vote share. How her local popularity translates to the national stage remains to be seen.

Here's how the past presidential candidacies of Minnesota's major politicians have performed throughout time:

Harold Stassen

Aside from being Minnesota's 25th governor, Harold Stassen was also known as a perennial presidential candidate, running no fewer than 10 times for the office from 1944 to 1992 — and rarely getting very far in the process.

His strongest bid came in 1948 after a streak of upset Republican primary victories against Thomas E. Dewey.

Not all states held primaries back then, and Stassen eventually lost the nomination to Dewey at the convention. Dewey, in turn, was defeated by Harry S. Truman for the presidency that year.

1948 Republican Primary
no primary held

Candidate Votes Vote %
Earl Warren (r, ca) 771,295 27%
Harold Stassen (r, mn) 627,321 22%
Robert Taft (r, oh) 464,741 16%
Thomas Dewey (r, ny) 330,799 12%
Riley Bender (r, il) 324,029 11%
Leverette Saltonstall (r, ma) 72,191 3%
Herbert Hitchcock (r, sd) 45,463 2%

Eugene McCarthy

After representing Minnesota in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, Eugene McCarthy ran for president several times. McCarthy's most famous campaign was his attempt to primary President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968.

The primary was thrown into chaos when Johnson declined to seek a second term, which led to another Minnesotan, U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, being granted the nomination at the convention.

McCarthy ran for president again in 1972 and 1992 as a Democrat, and as an independent in 1976 and 1988. He didn't get very far any of those races.

1968 Democratic Primary
no primary held

Candidate Votes Vote %
Eugene McCarthy (d, mn) 2,914,933 39%
Robert Kennedy (d, ny) 2,305,148 31%
Stephen M. Young (d, oh) 549,140 7%
Lyndon B. Johnson (d, tx) 383,590 5%
George Smathers (d, fl) 236,242 3%

Hubert H. Humphrey

Though born in South Dakota, Hubert Humphrey is among Minnesota's most well-known politicians for, among other things, helping found the Democratic Farmer-Labor party and serving as the state's U.S. Senator.

Humphrey ran for president a couple times in 1952 and 1960, became Johnson's running mate in 1964, then made another run in 1972. But he only ever secured his party's presidential nomination once.

Despite entering too late to campaign in the chaotic 1968 primaries, then-Vice President Humphrey won that year's presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention.

Minnesota is among the most reliably Democratic states in the union during presidential election years, with the state only voting for Republicans three times since the 1930s. Though Humphrey carried his home state, he still lost to Richard Nixon.

1968 General Election

Candidate Elec.Vote Vote %
Richard Nixon (r, ca) 301 43.4%
Hubert Humphrey (d, mn) 191 42.7%
George Wallace (d, al) 46 13.5%

Walter Mondale

After a long career in politics, which included serving as Minnesota's attorney general and then U.S. Senator, Walter Mondale ultimately became Jimmy Carter's vice president before winning the Democratic nomination for president in 1984.

That year, Minnesota continued its long history of Democratic voting (by a small margin) and was the only state, along with the District of Columbia, won by Mondale in his landslide loss to Ronald Reagan.

1984 General Election

Candidate Elec.Vote Vote %
Ronald Reagan (r, ca) 525 59%
Walter Mondale (d, mn) 13 41%

Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty declared his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in 2011, but dropped out less than three months later after finishing third in the Ames Straw Poll.

Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won that same poll with a quarter of the votes. Bachmann then finished sixth in the Iowa caucuses, prompting her to leave the race – though she remained on most ballots before Super Tuesday.

Both Bachmann and Pawlenty eventually endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination, which he won. Romney was later defeated by President Barack Obama in the general election.

2012 Republican Primary

Candidate Delegates Vote %
Mitt Romney (r, ma) 1,575 52%
Rick Santorum (r, pa) 245 20%
Ron Paul (r, tx) 177 10%
Newt Gingrich (r, ga) 138 14%
John Huntsman (r, ut) 2 0%
Michele Bachmann (r, mn) 1 0%
Tim Pawlenty (r, mn) 0 0%