A resignation by a liberal U.S. senator, the unexpected
retirement of a popular liberal congressman, and the
status quo in two state legislative special elections do not
support a notion of a coming “blue” anti-Trump wave in
Minnesota, a state the president almost won in 2016, and
which had been trending slightly “red” prior to this year’s
To be fair, there is no evidence yet of a “red” wave, either.
On the other hand, this typically “purple” state offers
each party some opportunities in 2018. On paper, the
Republicans have more to gain, especially in a cycle that
usually favors Democrats nationally.
Recent developments, including the retirement of
liberal Congressman Rick Nolan and the standoff in
two state legislative special elections, have boosted
conservative aspirations. Democrats (here called
Democratic-Farmer-Laborites or DFLers) had expected to
keep Nolan’s 8th District, and to possibly win a GOP state
house seat in a special election. Now, MN-8 is up for grabs,
they lost the state house race by 20 points, and almost lost
a state senate seat in another special election.
The biggest news is that now the GOP has a serious
voter ID and GOTV organization to match the formidable
DFL Wellstone Alliance. The Republican version is
Advantage Grass Roots, a group active this year in 27
states, and which was notably successful nationally in
2014 and 2016. Their Minnesota operation, and new GOP
Chair Jennifer Carnahan, seem determined to keep their
party competitive in 2018.
While the GOP also stands to pick up another DFL
congressional seat in southeastern Minnesota (now held
by retiring Tim Walz who is running for governor), the
DFL is hopeful to pick up the congressional seat now held
by conservative Jason Lewis who is running for his first
Republicans are also buoyed by the prospects of winning
back the governorship, now held by retiring DFLer Mark
Dayton who, after two terms, is at the low end of his
popularity. Former GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty is believed
to be on the verge of announcing his candidacy, although
he would likely have to go to a primary election to win his
party’s nomination. 2014 GOP nominee Jeff Johnson and
former GOP state chair Keith Downey are the frontrunners
for party endorsement at the state convention before the
primary. On the DFL side, the recent precinct caucuses
have winnowed the large field to three main candidates,
frontrunner Walz, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, and State
Representative Erin Murphy. There might also be a
competitive DFL primary.
Less likely would be a GOP win in the race against
appointed U.S. Senator Tina Smith, the former lt. governor
replacing Al Franken who resigned. Unlike senior Senator
Amy Klobuchar, Mrs. Smith has a potentially serious race
this year --- although Republicans have yet to come up with
a “big name” opponent. GOP State Senator Karin Housely
could develop into a formidable candidate, but like her DFL
opponent is unproven as a statewide campaigner.
Minnesota is becoming easily the most fascinating and
newsworthy battleground state in the nation in 2018 with
major tests for both parties in statewide, legislative, four
congressional and two U.S. senate races.
What’s more, each week seems to being some new surprise
and political development. It would appear that almost
anything could happen this year in Minnesota.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.