Part I (50-41) and an explanation of the scoring is here.
Part II (40-31) is here.
30. Kansas: 21.1 Points
Home of the 2008 NCAA Basketball Champions (thanks, in part, to this shot), the Sunflower State is pretty similar to a state like Indiana. It's a relatively highly educated state (12th in the country in terms of people with Bachelors Degrees or higher) and ranks basically around the middle of the pack. Nothing stands out, which is why I remember it only as a blur on the drive from Kansas City to Oklahoma City.
29. Ohio: 21.4 Points
Ohio is another state that, when first thinking about the best state, I declared a dark horse. The Buckeye State is always thought of as a sort of miniature America, demographically. Of course, the state is also famous for having a city (Cleveland) where a river caught on fire. In fact, the state has some bad economic numbers with median income and poverty levels in the bottom twenty states and an unemployment rate that ranks as the 5th worst in the nation. It does merit mention as the first state to have points in the social issues scoring, as it does require firearm registration. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a must-see and they should be psyched that Ohio State will beat the crap out of Michigan this weekend. On a related note, if you haven't had a traditional buckeye, you're missing out on yumminess and the most unhealthy food ever.
28. Nevada: 21.9 Points
The Silver State is named for the large silver deposits found within its borders and not, in fact, for the quarter after quarter dropped in many a slot machine by people with oxygen tanks. I'd actually live in the nice Las Vegas suburbs and Nevada is one of only seven states that have a law on the books to protect a woman's choice. The Strip is a sight that everyone should see in person once and I'm fond of Tahoe, though I'll touch on that a bit more when we get to California. In terms of rankings, Nevada's sort of weird. It's in the top ten nationally in median income and lowest poverty level, but it ranks 5th worst in both college degrees and doctors per capita. One can only assume that Nevadans are giving their money to Steve Wynn, rather than UNLV.
(Tie)26. North Dakota: 22.4 Points
You know you're in for an exciting state when the first thing listed on Wikipedia under "Attractions" is a farm show. But, well, the Peace Garden State is a state and while it ranks as just less than mediocre across the board, it ranks better than South Dakota, so they should be very pleased about that.
(Tie)26. Iowa: 22.4 Points
It's a little surprising that Iowa is just a 2008 McCain state victory away from being ranked behind North Dakota, although that surprise could come from the fact that the Hawkeye State gets overvalued a bit because of its place in American politics and because of its magical baseball diamond that brings people back from the dead. The reality is that there aren't a whole lot of available doctors, the people aren't super educated as a whole, and while they are not entirely poor, they are pretty low in median income. Is this heaven? No... It's Iowa.
25. Michigan: 23 Points
Even though Nevada technically comes closest to half the points of the #1 state (foreshadowing!), I proclaim our #25 and #24 states to be the absolute most mediocre states in the Union. The Great Lakes State is the first pure blue state on the list, but its economic situation keeps it below its Democrat-loving brethren. Michigan ranked worst in the nation with a 7.2% unemployment rate, almost a point worse than 2nd place Mississippi (who else?). In 2007. Last month, that number was 9.3%, a 16-year high. Not even the fact that the state has produced maybe the greatest staffer in the history of the United States Senate is enough to overcome a very bleak situation, one that may be getting bleaker by the day.
24. Florida: 23.8 Points
The other most mediocre state is the Sunshine State, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, Walt Disney World, and Dexter. Florida ranks between 20th and 35th in every category. The economy may be better than Michigan's, but the roads are a lot less safe. You'd know that to be fairly intuitive if you've ever driven (read: gripped the steering wheel and prayed for your life) there. While I like South Florida enough to ponder living there, the state beats out Michigan only because it has prettier sights with the Everglades and the Keys.
23. Alaska: 24.8 Points
Alaska is known as "The Last Frontier" because of its extreme wilderness, replete with magic buses and views of Russia. This one has to be the first pleasant surprise -- when my friends and I first discussed this, we pegged Russia at around #40. While the state has the 3rd worst unemployment in the country, it ranks 7th in median income and pretty high in the other categories. It's obviously beautiful and while you couldn't pay me to live there (and apparently, they actually do pay people to live there), I'm dying to visit. I'd write something snappy about their elected officials, but I can't remember any of their names.
22. Delaware: 25.1 Points
The First State, this is obviously not. To be honest, I'm more shocked about the low ranking of this state than any other so far. I thought that Delaware, with its progressive politics and its location in the East Coast megalopolis, would come out towards the very top of the rankings. It has a relatively low unemployment rate and high median income, but doesn't rank higher than 10th in any category and has a pretty high infant mortality rate. The biggest factor is that we're getting close to the point where states stand apart because they have a big city in them and/or they have excellent rankings. Delaware has neither and its place on the coast isn't enough, as 21 of the top 25 states all touch large bodies of water.
21. Maine: 25.7 Points
Maine, while not near big cities like Delaware, is pretty similar otherwise with slightly-better-than-mediocre rankings across the board, its best being the safety of its roads. What else to say other than I'm pretty sure every town is haunted since I'm a big Stephen King reader and McDonalds sells the McLobster. The Pine Tree State barely edges out Delaware because it has a law to protect choice and it sanctions civil unions. It is, of course, the lowest ranked state in New England.
Coming up tomorrow: We move into the top 40% with four land-locked and two pure red states left. Where will they fall?