Ed Morrissey is the latest Minnesotan to ask the question about whether Minnesota is turning red. Prior to Ed asking that timeless question, Barry Casselman asked that question in his Weekly Standard article.
Ed and Barry both note that Tim Pawlenty is the last Republican to win statewide office in Minnesota, with Ed noting that Hillary’s near-defeat shouldn’t be attributed to Trump’s strong performance as much as it should be attributed to Hillary’s poor performance. Ed highlighted the fact that “Trump did manage to outscore Mitt Romney’s 2012 results, but only by 2,000 votes. Clinton, on the other hand, dropped nearly 180,000 votes from Barack Obama’s 2012 total. That lack of enthusiasm for Clinton, and the poor GOTV effort on the ground in the state, is what nearly cost her the election.”
What neither gentleman wrote about was the strength of the Republicans’ legislative victories in 2016. In my opinion, that’s missing a key data point. Just look through the margins in the State Senate races. Republicans flipped SD-1 and SD-2 in northwestern Minnesota, SD-5 on the Iron Range, SD-17 near Willmar, SD-20 in south central Minnesota. Most of those seats were won by double-digit margins. Of the Republicans winning re-election, most won by high double-digit margins. On the House side, Republicans won by impressive margins.
The point isn’t that President Trump didn’t win. It’s that legislative candidates outperformed President Trump by a significant margin throughout the state. Further, DFL incumbent Tim Walz almost got defeated in CD-1. The race was so close that Walz opted to run for governor rather than accept a rematch with Republican Jim Hagedorn.
Walz is considered the DFL frontrunner for governor. Speculation is that the DFL might not endorse a candidate this year. If there’s a 3-, 4- or 5-way primary, which is a distinct possibility, the winner will limp out of the primary to face a hungry Republican Party and a well-rested, respected candidate.
Ed ends his post by saying “Before we get around to declaring the state ready to go red, perhaps the GOP can win one statewide office first. Casselman suggests that Pawlenty might be enticed to run again for his old office. That would be good news for the GOP, but we should wait to see whether any other Republican can crack that code — for the Senate, for secretary of state, auditor, etc. Until then … stay skeptical.”
That’s a fair point but I’m getting more confident that something historic is getting ready to happen with each passing election cycle. Don’t forget that I was the only journalist that predicted Chip Cravaack’s victory in 2010 and I’m the only journalist that predicted that Republicans would flip the Minnesota Senate.
In my opinion, Gov. Pawlenty’s time has come and gone. There’s little doubt that he’d do well in the suburbs but there’s equally little doubt that he’d struggle in rural Minnesota. The traditional pick, if he runs, would be Kurt Daudt. The dark horse candidate I’d pick would be Amy Koch. They’re both urban enough and well-known to win in the suburbs. They’re both rural enough to win rural Minnesota by a big enough margin.