The Ground Game In Minnesota

Jay Cost notes that that the Bush team seems to have some ground advantages in Minnesota. Based on what I saw when I lived there, I’m inclined to agree. The Republican Party of Minnesota is one of the most organized political organizations around. They’ve learned much from 2000 to 2002, and they’re applying those lessons in 2004. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if Bush does surprisingly well there, and a pick up of Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes would be a major boost for Bush…

7 thoughts on “The Ground Game In Minnesota

  1. This guy’s formula makes no sense to me. I’ve read it and reread it, all to no avail. A couple of his basic points were misleading. He cited some bizarre 32% to 7% Gore advantage in Wabasha County. Actually, Bush won Wabasha County in 2000 by a margin of 5,238 to 4,517. The other county he cited as having the largest increase in voter registration, Clearwater County, is a tiny county in northwestern Minnesota with a stagnant or declining population. While it is true that Bush won Clearwater County by a healthy 55% in 2000, that number represents a likely highwater mark for the GOP in a normally swing county. Two years later, for instance, Norm Coleman defeated Walter Mondale there by less than one percentage point. In the four statewide office races in 2002, the Democrats scored three victories in Clearwater County.

    As worthless as the formula seems to me, I have long suggested that Bush has a chance in Minnesota. The race will be won or lost in Minnesota’s affluent and increasingly Republican suburban and exurban fringe. Four years ago, Gore and Bush ran even there, but I suspect Bush’s margins will improve in every suburban/exurban county this time. I don’t even pretend to understand this silent plurality, which seems to quietly sneak to the polls every four years and trend this state closer to GOP territory even though you scarcely hear from them in the 729 days in between elections.

    However, Bush will need Norm Coleman-Tim Pawlenty caliber numbers in Anoka, Dakota, Washington, Scott, Carver, Wright, Sherburne and Chisago Counties this time because it is not looking good for Bush to retain his dominant 2000 performance in rural regions of the state, particularly the northwestern counties of the state that gave him some of his strongest numbers in 2000, but now stands firmly against him because of, among other things, his devastating stance on sugar beet imports. As I alluded to earlier, Bush is getting killed in the yard sign wars throughout southern and western Minnesota. I don’t necessarily suspect that Kerry will win Republican strongholds like Winnebago and Truman even though he’s decapitating Bush in the yard sign wars, but the presence of Kerry support and lack of presence of Bush support seems consistent county-by-county, and indicates that the Dems base is far more fired up than the GOP’s base here in Minnesota.

    When you start making your state predictions, I will counter with some specific regional Minnesota predictions. I do suspect the race will be close here, perhaps even closer than 2000, but the internals of this race will look a lot different than that year’s urban=Gore, suburban=split down the middle, rural=Bush dynamic.

  2. Yard signs don’t mean a thing, especially in national races. The only thing yard signs are really good for is increasing name recognition or pissing matches between candidates. They’re not really significant except as the most general indicator for smaller races.

  3. The candidate generating the most yard signs is an indication of the candidate whose base is most supportive of him/her. Four years ago, I saw very few Bush and Gore yard signs, at least here in Minnesota. This year, I see more Bush signs than I did in 2000, but substantially more Kerry signs. My dad works with closely with the DFL chair in a southern Minnesota county and has said for the past month that they can’t keep up with the demand for Kerry yard signs. They just managed to get their hands on 300 more and plan to distribute at least some of them to neighboring counties which also can’t keep up with demand. Yard signs may not be a good indication of who’s ahead and who isn’t, but they are a sign of an energized base….and to see Kerry leading Bush in yard signs by a 16-5 margin in the GOP stronghold of Winnebago is a really bad sign if you’re a Bush supporter in Minnesota.

  4. The reason you’re not seeing many Bush lawn signs is because there aren’t many being made. The Bush campaign for whatever reason hasn’t been pushing them – probably because increasing name ID for the President isn’t really a concern right now.

    Interestingly enough, in the Daschle/Thune race, you could probably do a pre-election polling based on lawn signs because damn near every house/car in the state is plastered with them…

  5. Interesting read, the two of you. For me as a foreign “observer” this whole yard sign thing is rather strange. (Read this as: We don’t have that in Germany.) What, exactly, is the “point” of putting signs for your candidate in your front yard? Is this meant to influence the undecided? Is it simply showing your support for whomever? If so, whom do people want to show their support? Is it to annoy the neighbors (who, we know, ALWAYS vote for the one I am not voting for, so my vote and his vote just cancel each other out)?

    You know, when it comes to cultural differences between the US and Germany, this is most strange: one thing you will find is that, for the most part, the German public is more “politicezed” than the American public. At the same time, you just would NEVER find anyone who would put up a sign in their window for either the “conservatives” or the “progressives” (those terms just make me smile grimly these days…).


  6. I think rather than putting up signs to “piss off” your neighbor, it’s actually meant to positively influence undecideds in the neighborhood. If I’m a swing voter driving through my neighborhood and see Kerry signs in front of every house, I’ll be more inclined to vote for Kerry, unless of course I dislike my neighbors. The amount of influence the yard signs have on public opinion is widely disputed, but I wouldn’t discount the psychological momentum that can come with a candidate’s dominance in the yard sign wars.

  7. A lot of it also is trying to build name recognition for a candidate, especially in local races. Lawn signs are a cheap way of making sure people who who you are, which is why it’s more common to see them in local races.

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