Minnesota seems easy to categorize politically as a blue state, but on closer inspection becomes harder to define.
The national media usually counts Minnesota as reliably Democratic, based on its track record in presidential elections. That record is no doubt due to having native sons Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale on the ballot in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Yet it's been nearly a generation since the state elected a DFL governor. The Minnesota Senate has been controlled by Democrats for more than 30 years, but control of the House has bounced back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.
The state also has a strong independent streak, and a strong third party in Jesse Ventura's Independence Party. At one time it had one of the most liberal U.S. Senators--Paul Wellstone-- and one of the most conservative-- Rod Grams -- representing it at the same time. Geography makes a difference, but not as much as you might think. The inner cities tend to be quite liberal, the suburbs more conservative. U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis and Michelle Bachmann of Stillwater live less than 30 miles from each other, but are polar political opposites.
All this adds up to what Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has called a "purple state;" a handle that perfectly fits the Vikings and Prince, and provides endless fascination for politics watchers.
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