Last year, when Minnesota's political parties were considering moving their caucuses (which most Minnesotans never bothered attending) to Super Tuesday, one of the goals was to make Minnesota matter more, to be a player, to get some notice.
"It'll give us a chance to be in the ballgame instead of sitting in the stands," said GOP spokesman Mark Drake. "We were in danger of being left behind again, so this certainly gives us a chance to play a much bigger role."
"It'll boost our importance," said DFL boss Brian Melendez.
So, how's that worked out? Not so well.
Here's the presidential field back around the time the move was being considered.
And here's the field today...
In 2004, 7 Democrats were involved in the Minnesota Democratic caucus; this year there'll be 3. Of course, in '04 there was only one Republican on the ballot. We had more visits early on from presidential contenders than this year. And, yes, I'm including Tuesday night's John Edwards rally in St. Paul, which he held despite already deciding to drop out of the race.
Says DFL analyst Blois Olson:
"The front-end-loaded system has also meant that it took a lot more money to be competitive. The idea that two candidates have already raised over $100 million on the Democratic side, and few candidates on either side is still eligible for public financing. People simply ran out of money, and the long campaign cycle meant they ran out of any mojo.
"Being relevant to many means getting candidate visits. We seem to be getting those. It may also mean that the outline of Minnesota is highlighted on all the stations next week. We should have moved to a Feb 5th primary, then...candidates would still be on the ballot and more than 2 percent of eligible voters would show up."
FYI, here's your caucus finder.
It may not have boosted our *importance* but we are sure getting more attention this year--as witness the Edwards visit, and the weekend rally by Obama.
And there is more than one name on the ballot on both sides of the political spectrum.
I'm not sure that's true, Paul. There were more names on the ballot in 2007. And we haven't really gotten more attention. Edwards showed up after he'd already decided to bag the race. Obama is coming Saturday. Janet Huckabee was here. Rudi, Thompson et. al were here before the caucus was moved so their attendance wasn't influenced by the decision.
We actually got all of the Dem presidential candidates in Minnesota earlier in the last presidential race, although that was because the state party chair convention was in St. Paul.
It'll be interesting to see if Minnesota gets as many visits for the general election as in '04. I suppose it'll depend on whether the South is in play.
Part of the problem is that we have caucuses and not a primary. Minnesota's caucuses are known to be driven and controlled by extremists in both parties. Reasonable people are scared to death when faced with the kind of people who frequent caucuses. At least a primary would encourage more people to partake and make a choice.
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