Despite my belief that caucuses are outdated and a monumental waste of time, I attended my precinct caucus Tuesday evening. Caucuses are an opportunity for the most dedicated (allegedly) political activists to come together and discuss issues surrounding their preferred political party as well cast votes in a presidential or gubernatorial straw poll.
For the record, Jeff Johnson emerged victorious within our state Senate District caucus and received 45.4% overall in the GOP gubernatorial straw poll.The second place finisher? That would be "Undecided." Yep, you read that correctly. "Undecided" garnered 15.6% of the vote, finishing ahead of former GOP state party chair Keith Downey, who finished third with 14.6%.
It's pretty clear at this point that party activists are anticipating former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, as has been rumored, jumping into the race. If so, you can expect Pawlenty will completely bypass the endorsement process at June's MNGOP convention and go straight to the August primary. Given the fundraising prowess Pawlenty would likely possess, I personally believe he'd be the favorite to win the GOP nomination should he declare his candidacy. I know this irks some activists and endorsement purists, but let's get real here. None of the current crop of Republican candidates has much of a chance to prevail statewide come November. Why not consider expanding the field with, y'know, a Republican who has actually accomplished that elusive task?
A few other thoughts:
- I reside in State House District 35A. Our current representative (and personal friend of Mrs. Carlson & I) Abigail Whelan is not seeking reelection, so we had the opportunity to hear from a handful of individuals vying for the GOP nomination for that seat. After listening to those folks, let's just say I'm going to miss Abigail more than ever.
- Turnout for the MN Republican caucus was pathetic with 10,909 attendees total. Meanwhile, the DFL had more than two-and-a-half times that with 27,447. It's hard to really gauge what that means. Are Republicans just not excited about the current statewide candidates? Do most activists desire to scrap this system all together in favor of a June Primary? Did other activists quietly leave the party upon Donald Trump becoming the presidential nominee two years ago? I doubt it's one simple answer, but this much is certain: MN Republicans are on the road to becoming a "cold California" if there isn't a course correction soon.
- I personally don't have a preferred candidate in the gov race, as I will enthusiastically support anyone opposite of a DFLer. But with that said, we in the MNGOP absolutely suck at appealing to undecideds within our own party, to say nothing of non-Republicans. Instead of touting the creds of their preferred candidate, many devotees spend their time spewing invective about the other participants. And then whenever something new or innovative is attempted (i.e. candidate Mary Giuliani-Stephens sending a text message to activists), it's largely ridiculed. I think someone once described our party as Blockbuster Video living in a NetFlix world. Sadly it's still an appropriate analogy even today.