Chris Cillizza, who writes The Fix political blog for the Washington Post today handicapped the characteristics of those who would be king, injecting an assertion about Minnesota voters designed to impress those outside of flyover country.
Pawlenty, as we have written before, is the leading populist in the party at the moment. (Apologies to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels but his pledge not to run in 2012 limits his reach within the GOP.) Pawlenty's personal story -- first in his family to go to college, a truck driver father etc. -- is at the heart of his appeal in Minnesota, a state not particularly inclined to support Republicans in statewide elections.
How to measure that? Let's look at the statewide races.
Governor - Minnesota hasn't been particularly inclined to support Democrats in the race for governor. It's elected one -- Rudy Perpich -- in the last 28 years. There have only been 9 Democrat governors in the state's history, and that's counting Perpich twice. There have been 26 Republican governors. So getting elected governor of Minnesota as a Republican isn't such a big deal.
Senator - Norm Coleman was the sitting Republican in the Senate before he lost last year's election to Al Franken. Out of three million votes cast, only a handful separates the two. Suggesting the state isn't inclined to support Republicans for the seat is a tough sell, especially when the seat has been held by two Republicans since the 1978, and only one Democrat. Similarly, the seat held by Amy Klobuchar has been split by Republicans and Democrats since 1977 (two apiece).
Secretary of State - Since 1858, there have been only five Democrat secretaries of state, although DFLer Joan Growe sailed through every election to serve from 1975 to 1999.
Attorney General - A Republican hasn't been elected attorney general in Minnesota since 1966. Even when Republicans were sweeping to victory in most statewide offices in 2002, DFLer Mike Hatch was the only one to buck the trend.
Cillizza may be hanging his hat on presidential contests in the state, but that's a thin peg in evaluating Pawlenty's history as a state candidate.
Pawlenty never took a majority of the vote in either election. Norm Coleman won his first race after Paul Wellstone's death with a DFL structure that was in disarray. Coleman is currently listed as the loser - having lost the race as an incumbent.
I believe the Republicans controlled the state House of Representatives for 1o or 12 years since 1972 when partisan lines were introduced to the ballot. I think that the State Senate has been DFL since 1976. The Republicans have never had a majority of the the US House seats since 1976 - the best is a tie.
I think that there is some validity to Cilizza's comments.
The House, Senate and congressional seats are not statewide races.
I love the DFL believing that the Wellstone death is what gave Norm Coleman the seat. Every poll I remember before Wellstone's death had Norm winning - by a lot more than he did.
The people of Minnesota might be liberal but we vote GOP a lot - statewide at least!
Oh and by the way when I say 'we' voted GOP I mean everyone else.
Don't think I have ever voted for a Republican (only think about 1-2 DFLer's for that matter).
It seems that third party candidates are supported better in Minnesota than elsewhere. I'll look for info on that.
It is interesting to note the apparent disconnect between statewide and local elections, presidential candidates aside. What does it say about an electorate that does't simply follow blue/red down the ballot? I prefer to think it a sign that voters consider candidates as individuals rather than appendages of a particular party.
Minnesota has always been Purple. Calling Minnesota Blue simply because of its trend in presidential elections overlooks the many important nuances of state politics.
Here is a good site for digging through election data. uselectionatlas.org
Minnesota was in the top 10 states when measuring percent voting for Ralph Nader in 2000, Ross Perot in 1992 & 1996. Evidently we liked John Anderson a little less as Minnesota ranked #15 in percent voting for him (may have to do with Mondale being on the democratic ticket that year).
Back on the original topic, the Republican party has been increasing it's focus on Minnesota elections. This would only be done if there is an opportunity to gain political ground (or prevent losing ground). Either way it is not accurate to simply write off the state as voting democratic. I actually see a strong tendency toward the middle with some succesful candidates having switched parties (an indicator of a moderate).
Since Governor Pawlenty has been Governor, the State House has lost 21 Republican seats and control of the Chamber. The Senate has lost 10 Republican seats and now has a veto-proof DFL majority. Something to keep in mind about Minnesota is that it's a populist state more than a Democratic or Republican State. Our US Senate and Governor's races in the past several decades have often resulted in the election of the candidate perceived as more populist -- Wellstone over Boschwitz in 1990 and 1996, Grams over Wynia in 1994, Ventura over Coleman and Humphrey in 1998, Klobuchar over Kennedy in 2006.