Wednesday, August 15, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnesota Dust-Up Post-Primary

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An epic 2018 primary produced one major upset, and decided the
major parties’ nominees for the numerous competitive state and
federal races in November, but the dust is far from settled in the
unique-this-cycle Minnesota political battleground.

With a key open governor’s race, two U.S. senate seats (one a special
election). at least four (out of eight) competitive U.S. house seats,
and an unusual state attorney general race drawing sensational
national headlines, and numerous state legislative races, Minnesota
has it all this year as perhaps no other state does.

The close races will now be dissected, digested and spun to serve
political goals. The major upset was in the Republican primary
for governor. The early favorite and most well-known candidate
was former two-term Governor Tim Pawlenty who entered the
contest late, but financially out-raised his opponent, former GOP
gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson who had lost the race in 2014.
Pawlenty decided to forgo the state party endorsing convention
and, presumably assuming he would win the primary, aimed his
campaign toward November. Along the way, he ran some negative
ads at Johnson that confused many of Pawlenty’s own supporters
as well as infuriated the Johnson campaign. With the support of the
GOP party and using limited resources, Johnson energetically
campaigned while the Pawlenty effort seemed immobile, except
for fundraising and saving its large financial advantage for a
presumed general election. Claiming the “true” conservative mantle,
Johnson closed with ads in the internet media suggesting that
Pawlenty was not as strong supporter of President Trump as he was,
citing an old 2016 criticism Pawlenty made about candidate Trump.
This latter strategy seems to have been the final blow to Pawlenty’s
presumed lead. That presumption was supported by a few very
low-sample polls that also, however, suggested that Johnson was a         
stronger candidate than Pawlenty against any of the major DFL
opponents. President Trump did not endorse either candidate, but
the use of his name at the end might have made a difference --- as
it has in so many GOP primary races this cycle across the nation.

The DFL primary winner in the governor’s race, retiring
Congressman Tim Walz, won a plurality in a primarily three-person
contest, defeating the DFL-endorsed candidate and a last-minute
candidacy by the current state attorney general. Walz now goes into
the general election as the probable early favorite.

DFL primary voters numbered 550,000  compared to the GOP’s
300,000 voters, but some of this can be explained by the more
numerous contested DFL races. A 5th district DFL congressional race
inspired a big turnout, but that contest was tantamount to election, so the
liberal vote there might well not be quite so motivated in November.
Nevertheless, it will now be up to the Johnson campaign, the two
GOP U.S. senate campaigns, and the conservative party congressional
candidates to motivate Republican voters to match the DFL in
November. With at least four very competitive races for the U.S.
house in Minnesota this year, a high profile race for state attorney
general, and the GOP defending its control of the state house,
there is a lot at stake.

Most of the national issues between each party and between the two
parties themselves are still at play in Minnesota, and the political
dust so far stirred up won’t be settled until the votes are counted in

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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