Thursday, October 18, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnewisowa Rising Again?

The imaginary superstate of “Minnewisowa,” first suggested in 2004 as
the electoral combination of three demographically and politically similar
individual adjoining states --- Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa --- now in
the closing days of the 2012 presidential election emerges again as a
battleground phenomenon.

In 2008, all three states voted for Barack Obama, and by sizable margins.
Only four years before, one voted for George W. Bush (Iowa), one voted for
John Kerry (Minnesota), and one was too close to call until the wee hours
of election night (Wisconsin). These three midwestern farm states, each with
one large metropolitan area, and similar ethic origin immigrants in the
19th century, offer a total of 26 electoral votes to the presidential candidate
who wins them all (more than Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or
Illinois offer individually). Furthermore, because of their proximity, the TV
media market buy for one state affects the neighboring state, and a campaign
appearance in one is often widely reported in the others.

At the outset of the 2012 campaign, only Iowa seemed a possibility for the
Republican ticket, whoever that might be. After the nomination of Mitt
Romney for president and Paul Ryan (from Wisconsin) for vice president,
however, it became quickly clear that Wisconsin would also be in play.
Finally, after President Obama’s disastrous first debate with Mitt Romney,
even traditionally Democratic Minnesota is showing signs of coming into
play by election day as a potential electoral tsunami moves across the nation,
with a clear momentum for Mr. Romney in virtually all polls.

I remain skeptical that Minnesota will cast its electoral votes for Mitt
Romney in the meeting for that purpose in the U.S. Congress on December
17, but it is, for the first time in this cycle, at least imaginable.

If indeed what is now considered a provisional “trend” is a true momentum,
a sweep of Minnewisowa will happen, as it did in 2008, and be part of a
decisive Romney victory.  I must hasten to add, however, that one more
presidential debate remains, and slightly more than two weeks will occur
before most voters (many have already cast absentee and “early” votes)
will make their final choices. No clear outcome in the presidential race is
visible yet.

So far, Minnesota has seen very little of the presidential campaign. Both
Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, as well as Mr. Biden and Mr. Ryan, have
appeared for private fundraisers (there is a lot of political cash in this state).
But political ads have been virtually non-existent except when they are
broadcast from Minnesota stations for the purpose of reaching voters in
northern Iowa or western Wisconsin. The Obama campaign has a minimal
presence in the Gopher State, and the Romney campaign has almost
nothing visible. The 10-point margin for Mr. Obama here in 2008,
according to most local polls, has dwindled, perhaps to half, but all the
“battleground” action has appeared elsewhere in the presidential race. The
final result in Minnesota, if this condition continues, could bring another
10-point margin or a nail-biter (the latter perhaps more likely if the national
trend to Mr. Romney follows unabated).

Wisconsin and Iowa, too, have uncertain outcomes. Team Obama has
poured significant TV ad expenditures into both states. Mr. Obama
probably cannot afford to lose both, especially as he is likely to lose Indiana,
another midwestern state he narrowly won in 2008. Mr. Ryan is not
necessarily as popular in all of Wisconsin as he is in his home district.
The Democratic U.S. senate candidate Tammy Baldwin is also so far doing
better than expected in her race with popular former Governor Tommy
Thompson. On the other hand, several failed recall elections of GOP
officials instigated recently by the state Democrats have tended to demoralize
the liberal party here.

Republican voter registration in Iowa in recent months exceeded Democratic
registration for the first time in years. That advantage, while relatively small,
has grown since then. Mr. Obama won his first upset victory in Iowa in 2008,
defeating Hillary Clinton, and his campaign, despite the state’s small number
of electoral votes, considers it critical, and has put notable resources here. The
state lost a congressional seat in redistricting, and two incumbents. one
Democrat and one Republican are thus running against each other in a
newly-formed district. At least one other Iowa congressional race could be
close. Mr. Romney virtually tied Rick Santorum in the presidential caucus
here earlier in the year (a recount gave the win to Mr. Santorum by a handful
of votes), but he has so far not pulled away (as he has in neighboring Missouri
and Nebraska).

With less than three weeks to go, therefore, little is settled in the lands of
Minnewisowa. There is enough suspense, however, to make the superstate
a bellwether on election night, although the numerous battleground states
on the east coast (which will report their results earlier), might remove the
suspense by the time those eastern returns come in.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

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