Wednesday, October 24, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Implosion In Minnesota?

Several last-minute developments in many of the Minnesota 2018
races, including governor, a U.S.senator special election, four close
U.S. house races, and a controversial contest for state attorney general,
have thrown outcomes here on November 6 into mystery and doubt.

Most notably, the state Democratic Party (here called the Democratic-
Farmer-Labor Party or DFL) has seen a wave of bad news at the
campaign’s end.

This includes the tightening of the races for governor, the U.S. senator
special election, and attorney general --- each of which initially showed
the DFL candidates with substantial leads, at least in public polls. All
three races are now considered competitive, and controversial DFL
nominee for attorney general, Keith Ellison, has fallen behind his GOP
opponent by 7 points. DFL nominees still lead in recent polls by 3-6
points in the other two races, but their advantage is clearly shrinking as
election day approaches.

In a major unforced political error, appointed DFL U.S. Senator Tina
Smith skipped a much-watched TV debate on the leading Minnesota
station (KSTP-TV) in which the candidates of both parties for governor,
both U.S. senate races and attorney general participated. Senator Smith
said she had a scheduling conflict, but so did the other senate race
where, also with a scheduling conflict, incumbent DFL Senator Amy
Klobuchar and her GOP opponent arranged to tape their debate earlier
so that it could be broadcast with the others. By not showing up,
Senator Smith gave her opponent, GOP State Senator Karin Housely
a whole hour interview by herself. It is difficult to understand the DFL
strategy to present an empty chair and an uncontested interview to
their opponent only two weeks before the election when so many
undecided voters are making up their minds in a clearly competitive
race. Her senate colleague Amy Klobuchar’s  arrangement to tape her
own debate undercut Smith’s scheduling conflict alibi.

In the northeastern Eighth congressional district, historically a DFL
stronghold, incumbent DFLer Rick Nolan is retiring, and the GOP
challenger, County Commissioner Pete Stauber has built such a
commanding lead that the DCCC has pulled $1.2 million in ads, and
in effect, conceded the race to he GOP. Not only would this now become
a rare Republican pick-up, but if the final result resembles Stauber’s
latest 15-point lead (Donald Trump carried the district by 16 points in
2016), Eighth District voters are also likely to contribute GOP margins
of tens of thousands of votes to Republican statewide candidates.
(During most of the past half century, this district gave margins of
tens of thousands of votes to the DFL.)

President Trump has recently held huge rallies in Duluth in the north
and Rochester in the south on behalf of his party’s candidates,
reinforcing a post-Kavanugh resurgence of the GOP base which has
occurred across the nation, especially in red and purple states.
With DFL enthusiasm seemingly blunted by the controversial Keith
Ellison candidacy for state attorney general, momentum has apparently
shifted to the conservatives in the closing days of the campaign.

But all is not rosy for the GOP. DFL Senator Kobuchar is sailing to an
easy re-election, and two incumbent Republican congresmen, Jason
Lewis in the Second District and Erik Paulsen in the Third District are
facing very serious DFL challenges, and could lose. A second potential
GOP congressional pick-up in the southern First District is also too
close to call with two weeks to go.

Republicans hold the state house of representatives by a notable
margin, but all of these seats are up for election in 2018. The state
senate is currently tied at 33-33, and control will be determined by a
special election this year, the only state senate seat on the ballot.
This seat is in a usually conservative outstate district.

Unexpected national developments and a possible third Trump visit
to the state could enhance or diminish any political momentum, but
the purple state of Minnesota is now, with only days to go, both
electorally and psychologically a toss-up.

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

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