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.