Republican presidential candidates are coming to Minnesota
this year, but they don’t seem to looking for votes. Perhaps it
is because of the Gopher State’s reputation as one of the bluest
(most liberal) states, and because the state has not given its
electoral votes to a Republican since 1972. On the other hand,
Minnesota has no statewide races next year, and there is
significant cash available from big donors, so many of the
2016 GOP hopefuls are quietly slipping into the state for
They are probably making a big strategic mistake. Here’s why:
The next cycle, which culminates in November, 2016, is turning
out to be atypical, especially in presidential campaign politics.
Attention is beginning to shift from the first four primary and
caucus states (Iowa New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada,
in that order), and to the March 1 Super Tuesday when a large
number of delegates will be chosen in 13 state contests. With
the large Republican field this year, and presuming many of
them will still be running in early 2016, the surviving candidates
will each need some victories to keep their campaigns going.
One of the Super Tuesday states will be Minnesota, and several
delegates will be available. Only one candidate will win Iowa,
only one will win New Hampshire, and only one will win South
Carolina, but there will likely be more than three finalists in the
race on March 1, so a win in Minnesota could provide some
momentum either for someone who has not won in the first four
contests, or solidify the lead for someone who has. Furthermore,
there are many contests on the March 1 Super Tuesday, and it’s
unlikely that a candidate who does not win at least one of them
could survive for the primaries and contests that remain.
There are other advantages, too. Minnesota is located adjacent
to and between Iowa and Wisconsin, two likely battleground
states in 2016. (In fact, the three states form the superstate
“Minnewisowa” --- a term I coined in the 2004 presidential
election --- that provides 26 electoral votes). The Twin Cities
and Duluth media markets reach much of western Wisconsin,
and the Rochester, MN media market reaches northern Iowa.
It’s easy logistically to schedule campaign appearances in
Minnesota when a candidate also has appearances scheduled
in Iowa or Wisconsin.
Minnesota holds a caucus on March 1, so GOP candidates
can concentrate on the limited number of caucus attendees.
If only one or a few presidential candidates compete in this
state, a surprise victory is quite possible.
And, of course, there is the cash. Minnesota is a particularly
affluent state with numerous successful businesses and
corporations. Many of its executives and owners are liberal,
and give generously to Democratic (DFL) candidates, but there
are also numerous conservative major donors in the state,
including several billionaires or near-billionaires.
(In 2013-14, ten of the GOP candidates for the most closely
contested U.S. senate races held fundraisers in the state. Each
raised in excess of six figures, and all ten candidates won in
November.) With no statewide races in 2016, Minnesota major
donors, if past history is a guide, will want to be fiscal players
in the presidential race.
Finally, although Iowa and Wisconsin are already battleground
states, and could cast their electoral votes for the GOP nominee,
Minnesota could break with its recent liberal pattern in 2016 and
be up for grabs. Democrats (DFLers) now only comprise about a
third of the state’s registered voters; Republican a few percent
less, but a third of Minnesota voters are now independents
(remember, Jesse Ventura won the governorship in 1998 as a
third party candidate) or unaffiliated, and these voters will make
the difference, more than ever before, next year. Hillary Clinton
is still popular with DFL women in Minnesota, but Mrs. Clinton
does not have the kind of support that Barack Obama had
here in 2008 and in 2012. A strong center-right Republican
nominee could surprise in Minnesota in 2016.
It will be interesting to observe which GOP presidential
candidates, if any, figure all of this out.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.