But these rural areas are declining in population, and it is in the extended suburbs that Republicans are strongest. Minnesota has seen an explosion of the suburbs around Minneapolis/St. Paul. The same dynamic has held, if to a lesser extent, in the Milwaukee area. The cities themselves might be more liberal than ever. Weber compares Minneapolis to San Francisco. But the surrounding suburbs are full of families who care about low taxes. The suburbanization is just part of more widespread changes, especially in Minnesota. If Ohio is still an old- economy state, Minnesota is increasingly new economy, with large medical-technology and financial sectors.
Iowa is less suburban, but has plenty of socially conservative voters, and unions aren't as strong there as they used to be. The state has always been competitive. Four out of its five congressmen are Republicans. Its two senators are split. It has a Democratic governor, but a Republican legislature.
All three states have strong hunting cultures, where the pro-gun-control stance of national Democrats is unpopular. As Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan told National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, "The line is, Wisconsin is Catholic deer hunters and Minnesota is Lutheran deer hunters." And it is very dangerous to be a pheasant in Iowa.
Bush might still win Ohio and lose these three states. It seems that, in order of likelihood of a Bush win, the states are Iowa (Bush narrowly ahead), Wisconsin (Bush tied), Minnesota (Bush narrowly behind). But this region is bristling with Republican potential, and for GOP presidential candidates, a new geographical admonition should apply: "Go upper Midwest, young man."