Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Minnesota - Election Battleground

Hat tip to Powerline for pointing me to this piece in Slate today:

The only state to oppose Reagan flirts with conservatism.

Some good analysis in there, which I find sorely missing regarding our state in most national media of the right and left. Even Norm Coleman's defeat of Walter Mondale in the 2002 Senate race hasn't overturned the common perception that Minnesota is still Mondale country.

One interesting point in the Slate article I hadn't considered is how much weight some Democrats seem to give the Wellstone funeral debacle, as an excuse for their poor political showing in 2002. It's like they assume their defeat in 2002 was an abberant blip and nothing to worry about as a trend.

For the benefit of those from other states, let me give a little background regarding why this incident got so much attention.

Paul Wellstone was a well liked and respected politician on both sides of the aisle. Most conservatives found his policies stupid and daffy and certainly didn't want him re-elected. But the vast majority also though Wellstone was personally a nice guy. Jason Lewis - at the time the most popular right-wing political talk show in the Twin Cities - even let Wellstone substitute host for him on his show a couple of times.

Wellstone provoked almost the exact reverse of what Bill Clinton did among conservatives. With Bill Clinton (post his attempt to nationalize healthcare anyway) the policies weren't such a problem, it was the character of the man himself. With Wellstone his character was respected and even admired by conservatives - but his policy preferences were intolerable.

So when Wellstone died, there was genuine mourning across partisan lines throughout the state. So much so that every single television broadcast affiliate - including Fox and the WB - interrupted their normal broadcast to carry live coverage of the Wellstone memorial service. If you didn't have cable or satellite, this was literally the only show on television at that time.

That's why the behavior of the Democrats in attendence made such an impact when they turned the Memorial into a partisan rally. It was like all that free air-time was simply too tempting for them. Political power beckoned them beyond their ability to exercise restraint.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure the memorial/rally hurt the Democrats to an extent beyond sacrificing the good will they inherited from Wellstone's tragic death. The Republican concern before that event was that swing voters would cast sympathy ballots for Wellstone's chosen successor out of the emotion of the moment. The memorial/rally drained all that sympathy in an instant.

That being said, people tend to forget that Coleman was leading Wellstone in some polls before the tragedy. This wasn't some aberration. This is a state that had been trending Republican for quite some time. Those who look to one time events like the scandal about the memorial/rally are missing the bigger picture. Minnesota is simply not a Democratic sure-bet anymore.

Even on the right side of the blogosphere, most of the pundits seem excited about the possibility of Bush carrying Wisconsin and Iowa, but concede Minnesota to Kerry with little more than a glance.

Neither the Bush nor the Kerry campaign seems to think it's so certain. Bush, Cheney, Kerry, and Edwards are here so often they could probably register to vote here if they wanted (only slightly exagerrating - the residency requirement for voter registration here is scandalously low). Bush is in Minnesota today, in fact.

If the polls (the good ones I mean... the Star Tribune poll has a long-established record of favoring the Democratic challenger by 5-8 points above the eventual result) show this race as a tie, or Kerry with a lead within the margin of error on election day, I fully expect Bush to carry this state.


Blogger R-Five said...

I hope you're right about MN going red. It would be the next to last nail in the DFL coffin. The last nail must wait until 2006, when we can get rid of some of those Senators who bushwhacked C. P. Yecci this year.

I'm glad you pointed out that Wellstone's re-election was far from assured. Coleman was scoring big points about Paul being on the short end of so many lopsided (94-3 e.g.) votes, meaning he got nothing done. Indeed, the "we will win" chant, Mrs. Wellstone's note of encouragement acknowledges they didn't believe the Minnesota Poll either.

5:24 PM  

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