Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Reasonable Outcome

Ever since the election, I've been getting e-mails from people around the country who borrow a line from Thomas Franks and ask "What's the matter with Minnesota?" (usually using an expletive or two). They wonder how we could have allowed Al Franken to get anywhere near a US Senate seat to say nothing of the mere 235 234 (Mark Ritchie just found another one for Al) votes that now separate the two candidates pending a recount. And some Minnesotans are wondering the same thing.

The reality is that this election wasn't that bad or surprising for Republicans in Minnesota. Especially if Coleman can hang on.

Sure, Minnesota went for Obama by ten points, but anyone paying attention could have told you that was going to happen (as I did often over the last year plus). It's important to keep things in perspective and be realistic about what our chances were. Back in October of 2007, in a post called MN OB In '08 I wrote:

Republicans in this state and elsewhere need to wake up and smell the roses (Moses). Not only is Minnesota not "in play" in '08 as far as the presidency goes, it's possible--although probably not likely--that we could have an all-Democratic slate representing us in Washington after the 2008 elections.

You think an all-blue delegation is impossible? If you don't believe that Coleman is vulnerable, you just aren't paying attention. And if you don't think the Dems are going to throw everything they can at Michele Bachmann in the Sixth, you're dreaming. With Ramstad's retirement and John Kline apparently having to face a real candidate for a change (how real is still TBD), it's not outside the realm of possibility to imagine that the MN GOP could lose Coleman's Senate seat and all three House races.

Again, I don't think it's likely that Kline will be knocked out, but the Third District is very much up in the air and Bachmann is going to have to weather a ferocious media and money onslaught to hold on to her seat. Meanwhile, the prospects of picking off any of the current Democratic holds does not look good. Earlier, I would have thought that Tim Walz might be vulnerable, but unless something changes dramatically, he looks like he'll be returning to Washington.

And closed with:

The bottom line is that doesn't matter whether Pawlenty is on the ticket as VP, the convention is in the Twin Cities, or Romney is the candidate (hee, hee): Minnesota is going blue in aught eight and nothing the GOP can do is going to change that fact. The eventual Republican candidate would do well to avoid wasting precious time and resources here. Minnesota Republicans should focus their efforts on trying to save Norm Coleman, hold their three House seats, and maybe chip away at the DFL stranglehold in the State House of Representatives. Those are the boundaries that they should be playing within. Anything else should be considered out of bounds.

Other than being wrong about Kline having to face a real opponent, everything else looks pretty prophetic. Coleman was vulnerable, Bachmann was the target of the media and outside money (admittedly somewhat due to her own making), and even though Paulsen ended up winning the Third by a surprising margin, going into Election Day that race seemed like a toss up.

In that light, the results don't seem all that disappointing. We held the three House seats and have a far more conservative voice in the Third with Paulsen than we did in Ramstad. If Coleman survives the recount, we keep the Senate seat. We didn't make any progress in the Minnesota House, but the losses were slight and the DFL didn't get its veto-proof majority.

Yes, it is a shame that the Constitutional Amendment to tax us in perpetuity for the outdoors and the arts passed, but that's a bipartisan embarrassment. It should also be noted that although Minnesotans are usually a pretty common-sense, down to earth lot, when we step in the voting booth we tend to get a little goofy. Not only did we elect Jesse Ventura, we also have a reputation for ticket splitting that defies explanation. At hockey on Thursday morning, a guy told me that he voted for Barack Obama and Michele Bachmann. Good luck logically deconstructing that one.

So all in all, it wasn't a bad election for the Minnesota GOP. It may not be the beginning of the tide turning, but at least it looks like the bleeding has been stopped.

The one surprising and disappointing result was that Tim Walz picked up 62.5% of the vote in the First District. He just won the seat in '06 and I would have thought that he would have been a bit more vulnerable than that. The First still seems to the only District where the GOP would have any chance of taking a seat from the Dems in the near future. The other four are bastions of blue that appear likely to remain in Democratic control for some time. McCollum received over 68% of the vote in the Fourth, Peterson 72% in the Seventh, and Oberstar 68% in the Eighth.

And the next time someone tells you that the party needs to invest more time and resources in the Fifth, consider that Keith Ellison--in only his second race--tallied 71% of the vote against Barb Davis White, the best candidate the GOP has had in that district for years. Sending resources and money into the Fifth against the DFL machine is like sending the Polish cavalry against the German panzers. There may be a certain lost cause glory to it, but at the end of the day it's going to be a futile effort. This isn't being negative, just realistic.

The only way for the GOP to get back to parity in the state is to hold what we got and--where and when it makes sense--take what we can, race by race seat by seat.

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