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The most 'representative' state: Wisconsin

By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Looking for a state that is a microcosm of the whole country? You won't find it in Iowa or New Hampshire -- there are 25 states that come closer to average statewide measures on important characteristics such as race and income.

What about Nevada or South Carolina? Nope. They're even further away from "real America" than New Hampshire -- or Utah, for that matter. Michigan? You're getting warmer, but there are 10 states that can claim to be more representative than Michigan.

In fact, a politician looking for that mythical microcosm -- the most typical state in the country -- should look no further than Wisconsin.

The Badger State comes closer than any other to state-by-state averages on 12 key measures, according to a new analysis by CNN Polling Director Keating Holland that takes a fresh look at U.S. Census data.

"For years, politicians who put the presidential calendar together have wrestled with the question of which states really are the most typical or more representative of the country," Holland said. "Here is one way to determine that."

Holland identified 12 key statistics -- four that measure race and ethnicity, four that look at income and education, and four that describe the typical neighborhood in each state -- and added up how far each was from the figures for the average state on each measure.

Holland said he chose these 12 different categories because "they have a strong impact on the political landscape in every state."

Close behind Wisconsin are four other Midwestern states that look most like a hypothetical average state -- Missouri, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio. Most of the least-typical states tend to come from the Northeast, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. West Virginia is in 49th place, while Mississippi comes in dead last.

Interestingly, West Virginia and Mississippi both petitioned the Democratic National Committee to be chosen for early slots on the party's presidential nominating calendar in 2008. So did Michigan. They all lost. The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee recently recommended that Nevada and South Carolina join Iowa and New Hampshire for this coveted placement on the presidential nominating calendar. The full DNC membership is likely to ratify the recommendations next month.

So, what makes Wisconsin so special -- or, to put it another way, what makes Wisconsin so average? It is about as close to the average state as you can get on most of the 12 measures included in this study.

For example, let's take the number of college graduates who live in each state. Wyoming is dead center among all 50 states, with 30.22% of its population holding a college degree. In Wisconsin, the number is 30.24%.

Or take housing values. On a state-by-state basis the median housing value, in North Carolina, is just over $111,600. The median housing value in Wisconsin is roughly $111,500. The Badger State is also fairly close to the state-by-state average on population growth, home ownership, population density, and the number of blacks and Hispanics who live there. The number of whites and blue-collar workers who live in Wisconsin is much further away from the average state's figures on those measures, but not enough to keep the Badger State from claiming the top spot.

Mississippi, on the other hand, is about as far away from the average state as you can get on most of the 12 measures included in this study. By some measures, Mississippi is the poorest and most rural state in the country. The average house in Mississippi is worth only about $71,000. (Only Oklahoma has a lower median housing value.) When you add it all up, Mississippi is so far away from the typical state on so many different measures that it ends up at the bottom of the list.

"It's important to note that there are hundreds of ways of making this same calculation, and dozens of states could all make a legitimate claim to being the most representative state in the nation," Holland said.

To make the calculations easier to understand, Holland recalculated each state's score to produce a zero-to-50 scale -- there are 50 states, after all -- with a high score indicating a state that is more representative than a state with a lower score.

A ranking of the 50 states

1. Wisconsin 36.4

2. Missouri 35.2

3. Kansas 34.4

4. Indiana 30.8

5. Ohio 30.1

6. Oklahoma 29.9

7. Oregon 29.3

8. Nebraska 29.0

9. Georgia 27.3

10. Minnesota 26.9

11. Michigan 26.8

12. Washington 26.3

13. Wyoming 25.9

14. North Carolina 25.8

15. Florida 25.6

16. Montana 25.3

17. Virginia 25.3

18. Alaska 25.1

19. Pennsylvania 25.0

20. Arizona 24.8

21. Delaware 24.1

22. Tennessee 22.3

23. South Dakota 21.4

24. Kentucky 20.3

25. New Mexico 20.3

26. Iowa 19.6

27. Texas 19.6

28. Illinois 19.5

29. Rhode Island 19.0

30. Maryland 18.9

31. Colorado 18.8

32. Louisiana 18.3

33. Idaho 18.1

34. Vermont 17.9

35. Maine 17.4

36. New Hampshire 17.4

37. Utah 17.0

38. Hawaii 16.3

39. South Carolina 15.8

40. California 15.3

41. Arkansas 15.0

42. Alabama 14.6

43. North Dakota 13.8

44. Nevada 13.5

45. Connecticut 13.1

46. Massachusetts 11.6

47. New Jersey 11.4

48. New York 6.5

49. West Virginia 4.8

50. Mississippi 2.8

Talking up Richardson

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's top political aide is in Washington, D.C. this week talking to strategists and fundraisers about the New Mexico Democrat's re-election in November as well as his role as head of the Democratic Governors Association. But in many cases, the conversations with Dave Contarino, chairman of Richardson's gubernatorial re-election campaign, are turning to 2008.

A source close to Richardson tells the Grind that laying the groundwork for 2008 is "not the primary reason" why Contarino is in town, but added "certainly when it comes up, he is not discouraging it.

"He is willing to talk about the governor's resume and how he would be a strong candidate if he decides to run," the source said.

The source said that Richardson, himself, "can't go anywhere these days without the presidential questions coming up.

"Obviously, it is no secret the governor is considering it and we believe he has got the best resume of the group, particularly at this time in history where foreign policy, international relations and diplomacy is such a key part of what the next president is going to need," said the source. Before he was elected governor in 2002, Richardson served in the House, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as Energy secretary.

19 hearings, 8 Committees, 12 States

House Republican leaders this morning will announce the newest round of field hearings on illegal immigration that will take place in 12 states over the August recess.

The House and Senate remain at loggerheads over how to address the illegal immigration issue, a dispute that also pits House Republican leaders against President Bush. Specifically, House Republicans oppose a Bush/Senate backed plan that would create a system to allow current illegal immigrants living in the U.S. an opportunity to gain citizenship. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), just back from a fact-finding mission to the Southern border, will reiterate his opposition to the proposal when he unveils the new border hearing schedule.

"Before we can look at other immigration issues, we must first secure our borders," Hastert will say, according to an advanced copy of his remarks obtained by the Grind. "I am disappointed that the Democrats support a plan for open borders and a plan for amnesty. Their plan is just plain unacceptable."

Hastert will also emphasize Republicans' belief that "border security is an issue of national security," a GOP theme that is expected to be echoed on the campaign trail in the closing months of the 2006 campaign.

"It is not a secret that terrorists and drug runners -- who want to do us harm -- are trying to find ways into our country and I believe we must first do everything we can to stop them," Hastert will say.

A complete list of House hearings

Judiciary Committee

  • San Diego, CA on August 2nd -- How do illegal immigrants impact the costs of healthcare, local education, and other social services, and would these costs increase under Reid-Kennedy immigration bill?
  • El Paso, TX on August 17th -- What is the financial impact of illegal immigration on communities along the U.S. border, and could these costs rise under the Reid-Kennedy bill? What is the impact on efforts to extend a border security fence under the Reid-Kennedy bill's requirements regarding consultation with the Mexican Government? Will efforts to limit illegal immigration be inhibited by the Reid-Kennedy bill's provisions relating to local law enforcement?
  • Concord, NH on August 24th -- How do illegal immigrants impact the costs of healthcare, local education, and other social services, and would these costs increase under Reid-Kennedy immigration bill? What is the societal impact of the Reid-Kennedy bill's grant of amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants?
  • Upstate New York on August 25th -- What are the current risks of terrorists, narcotics smugglers, and human traffickers infiltrating the United States, and what role do secure identification documents play in limiting those risks? Does the Reid-Kennedy bill undermine efforts to limit those risks?
  • Evansville, IN on August 29th -- How are U.S. workers impacted, and potentially displace by the Reid-Kennedy bill?
  • Dubuque, IA on September 1st -- Do the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions repeat the mistakes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986?
  • Armed Services Committee

  • Selfridge Air National Guard Base, MI on August 1st -- What are the unique challenges for the Department of Defense in supporting border enforcement along the Northern Border?
  • Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, AZ on August 2nd -- What are the operational and training impacts of a porous border on military bases along the border?
  • Homeland Security Committee

  • Bellingham, WA on August 8th -- What are the border infrastructure successes since passage of the REAL ID Act and the 9/11 Commission Implementation Act, and what challenges still exist?
  • Austin, TX on August 17th -- What are the criminal consequences of illegal immigration along the Southern Border?
  • Intelligence Committee

  • Sierra Vista, AZ on August 17th -- What is the state of technical surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for monitoring the efforts of terrorists and drug cartels to infiltrate American soil through the Southern border?
  • Grand Rapids, MI on August 23rd -- What is the threat to the United States from Islamic extremists who abuse the legal immigration system?
  • Education and the Workforce Committee

  • Plano, TX on July 31st -- Does the Reid-Kennedy bill weaken employment verification systems, making it easier for illegal immigrants to find work inside American borders?
  • Gainesville, GA on August 14th -- What is the impact on American workers and businesses of the Reid-Kennedy bill's provisions mandating Davis-Bacon wage rates for guest-workers?
  • Energy and Commerce Committee

  • Nashville, TN on August 10th -- What is the impact of the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions on the health care delivery system and for individual American taxpayers?
  • Dalton, GA on August 15th -- What is the impact of the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions on the health care delivery system and for individual American taxpayers?
  • Government Reform Committee

  • San Diego, CA on August 14th -- What is the impact on state and local governments, in terms of both societal costs such as policing and direct government costs such as health care and welfare benefits, of illegal immigration? Would the Reid-Kennedy bill impose huge unfunded mandates on state and local governments?
  • Resources Committee

  • Santee, CA on August 5th -- What efforts need to be undertaken to prevent federal public lands from being harmed as they are used as a pathway for illegal immigration? Does the Reid-Kennedy bill compromise our federal lands?
  • Hamilton, MT on August 28th -- What efforts need to be undertaken to secure the federal lands along the Northern border to prevent drug trafficking and other illegal activities? Could the Reid-Kennedy bill make these efforts more difficult?
  • Democrat's election year push

    House and Senate Democrats will huddle behind closed doors this afternoon for a part strategy session/part pep rally as the minority party begins a final push to try and take back Congress in November. A Democratic leadership aide tells the Grind the meeting is intended to talk about the party's "closing arguments" it will make to voters as to why "there needs to be a new direction for America."

    "Now is when Democrats begin to make Republicans pay for wasting the last 19 months catering to the radical right and rubberstamping George Bush," the aide said. "We're fanning out across the country to ensure every American who wants a new direction knows that's what they'll get in a Democratic Congress."

    Democratic leaders are book-ending the meeting beginning with an off-camera political briefing at the Mott House and closing with an on-camera news conference at the Russell Senate Swamp.

    A Senate Republican's worse nightmare

    For Republican senators, one Harry Reid is enough to contend with. But two could be downright aggravating. Even Reid would agree that two of him spells trouble.

    The Senate Minority Leader from Nevada discovered this week that he was a victim of identity theft after someone used his MasterCard number to charge about $2,000 at a Wal-Mart and other stores in Monroe, N.C., CNN's Ted Barrett reports.

    "It's not a tremendous inconvenience for me," he said. "I won't have to pay it."

    But Reid said he is steamed about the fact the perpetrator likely will never be caught. "Something has to be done," he said, holding up his now-deactivated card.

    Reid said he found out someone had obtained the number after opening his bill Tuesday night. Reid said he does not know how someone obtained the number or whether he has been the victim of a broader identity theft -- a problem that affects millions of Americans every year.

    The question is if the new Harry Reid can make a purchase at Wal-Mart, can he also launch a filibuster?

    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today

  • President Bush signed the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization into law at 9:35 a.m. ET. He meets with the President of Romania at 11:15 a.m. ET. At 1:15 p.m. ET, Bush signs the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 into law. Bush then heads to the Grand Hyatt for a 1:50 p.m. ET speech to the National Association of Manufacturers.
  • Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at the 2006 Korean War Veterans Armistice Day ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET. The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook:
  • The House comes into session at 10 a.m. ET. The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook:
  • Democratic leaders hold a pen-and-pad with reporters at noon in the Mott House across the street from the Hart Office Building. They then hold a 1:45 p.m. ET news conference at the Senate Swamp following their joint caucus.
  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman attends a fundraiser for Ralph Norman, who is running for Congress in South Carolina. Mehlman also speaks to the Urban League's 2006 conference in Atlanta. He then attends a GOP precinct chairs meeting in Macon, Ga. and attends a fundraiser for former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Georgia), who is running for the House again.
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