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Election Analysis – Minnesota

Again, thank heavens Pawlenty won. Mike Hatch would have been a disaster for this state. While Pawlenty’s margins were razor thin, it’s still a victory. In fact, it’s a considerable victory, as Republican turnout was likely depressed in this election. When the bottom fell out of the Kennedy/Klobuchar race, it undoubtedly hurt the rest of the Republican ticket. That seems to show in the other statewide races — Kiffmeyer and Anderson were trounced. GOP voters just didn’t show up to the polls yesterday in as large a number as they normally do. What this means is that Pawlenty was able to get enough crossover support from Democrats to pull off his narrow win — if he had just gotten the GOP base, Hatch would have trounced him by several points.

Bachmann did better against Wetterling than I would have expected. I suspect that both Kennedy and Wetterling were hurt by negative advertising. Going negative is always a risky political strategy, and when Kennedy and Wetterling did it as challengers, it ended up hurting them rather than helping.

The big shocker was the Gutknecht/Walz race. It wasn’t close, Walz soundly trounced Gutknecht. Obviously the early reports that MN-1 was safe were completely and totally wrong. Again, I think that turnout is key in that race. The GOP turnout was probably much lower than it should have been. Two other factors seem to have been in play. The first is that Gutknecht was far too complacent, and many Republicans are blaming him for running a campaign that was lackluster at best. He thought he had a safe seat, and while conventional wisdom would have said that was true, every smart politician runs like they’re 10 points down. Gutknecht didn’t do that, and it cost him.

The second one is that the demographics of the First are changing. Rochester is trending more and more Democratic. Immigration is changing the demographics of cities like Worthington. It’s a less safely Republican district than it has been in the last few cycles, and redistricting made it much more diverse than it was. It’s quite possible that a smart GOP candidate can knock off Walz in the next electoral cycle, but it’s going to take a lot of work.

No doubt about it, the Republicans got trounced in Minnesota, even harder than they got trounced nationally. Ron Carey hasn’t been able to pull off what his predecessor did, and that’s hurting Minnesota Republicans. The Minnesota GOP is going to have to work hard at fixing their problems and increasing turnout. Minnesota will be firmly in the spotlight in 2008, and while the GOP has suffered a major setback, that doesn’t mean that Minnesota will forever be a blue state — just that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

One response to “Election Analysis – Minnesota”

  1. Mark says:

    Hatch would be Governor right now if not for “Republican whore”. Idiot.

    You’re probably correct that there were alot of Republicans who stayed home, as there were fewer votes cast this year in Minnesota than the 2002 midterms. I think the big story was independents, however, who seem to have swung to the Democrats in every race except the Governor’s race. Third-party candidates didn’t fare as well as they usually do in the constitutional office races, which allowed the DFL to blow past incumbents in the SoS and Auditor’s race. The Independence Party and Green Party were all that got Kiffmeyer and Anderson elected in the first place, so if their diminished presence becomes a pattern, it’s unlikely the GOP will win these offices too often in Minnesota’s future elections.

    I’m also surprised that Bachmann beat Wetterling by the same margin as Kennedy did in 2004. One wonders how moderate DFLer El Tinklenberg would have fared against nutty Michelle, who will now be in a contest with Keith Ellison on who can embarrass Minnesota the most often.

    Gutknecht ran a dreadful campaign. Even his own ads (as opposed to those funded by the RNCC) were canned and uninspired, and didn’t even feature Gutknecht making a personal appeal to voters. Like I said last week, it’s almost as though Gutknecht was trying to lose. Combine that with Tim Walz’s infectious charisma and aggressively-sought campaign and I sensed two weeks ago that Walz would win.

    And yes, Rochester is trending Democratic (although a center-right Republican like Pawlenty still does good business there), moving the district to the political center, as I told you three years ago, met to skeptical ears. As for Worthington, immigration has made that (and Willmar, and most other high-immigration towns) MORE Republican, not less. Look back at the returns from the 1970s and 1980s where George McGovern was winning the Worthington area and it puts into the spotlight what has happened. The unionized meatpackers of the previous generation DID vote, and voted Democratic, as compared to today’s immigrant workforce which is largely non-citizen and does not vote. My dad has done GOTV drives at Worthington’s packinghouse. It’s hopeless. None of them are voter-eligible citizens. Meanwhile, the remaining whites in the community are more likely to be resentful of the “invasion” and thus shift to the Republicans who wish to crack down harder on immigration. This is going on in immigrant-heavy food processing towns throughout the country.