The Pioneer Press had an interesting piece this weekend on how the political dynamics in Minnesota are still trending towards the GOP:
The national scene seems to portend Democratic gains in governorships and Congressional seats, possibly leading to Democratic control of Congress. Low job approval for President Bush and Congress result from a familiar litany of problems â€” endless conflict in Iraq, high energy prices, anxieties about international turmoil and ongoing domestic controversies over immigration and health care.
Democrats, however, have not quite closed the deal with American voters. Surveys reveal them as unpopular as Republicans. Democrats have yet to present an appealing alternative to the GOP agenda. It will be up to individual Congressional candidates â€” in Minnesota, most notably Senate aspirant Amy Klobuchar and 6th District House candidate Patty Wetterling â€” to make the case for change. So far, their national party has not carried that argument with likely voters.
Running directly contrary to this national current is the favorable trend for the GOP in Minnesota state politics. This trend is of recent vintage. Part of it stems from growing GOP party identification in the state, detected in a recent Star Tribune Minnesota poll. In addition, a peaceful state legislative session, a budget surplus, improved economic growth and job creation all help Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and GOP state legislative candidates.
I would also had that the Republican Party of Minnesota is one of the most disciplined and effective political organizations out there today. When it comes to identifying voters and getting them to the polls, the state GOP has it down. This is also part of a national trend in which the GOP has been doing an excellent job in terms of GOTV efforts. The Democrats still retain a slight edge in party ID, but that edge is slipping. Part of it is due to the changing nature of the US electorate — the unions, which used to be the Democratic Party’s biggest asset, are slowly being replaced by a more independent workforce. Blue states are generally losing population, while Red states are gaining. Even with immigration and urbanization, the GOP still holds a slight demographic advantage.
As the article notes, it also helps that there are deep divisions just under the surface of the DFL. The DFLers I’ve spoken to have noted that there’s a pretty substantial divide between the urban liberals and the traditional Farmer-Labor voters. The war in Iraq has become a political litmus test here in Minnesota for Democrats just as it has been national, and candidates such as Amy Klobuchar who are trying to find a moderate path are getting pushed by hardcore anti-war voters. Discipline is key to a political party’s future, and the DFL’s divisions could slow down their ground game come election time.
That doesn’t mean that Minnesota is likely to go red any time soon. However, it does show that even in largely inhospitable political climates, a disciplined and effective political operation can still win. The unpopularity of the President doesn’t necessarily effect local races — in fact, it has a very small effect, if any. When it comes to having a solid ground game, the GOP is doing quite well, which is how so many state offices are held by Republicans despite Minnesota being considered a very blue state.