Election Analysis--Results--Statewide part 1--posted by Tony Garcia on 11/16/2006
As was the case Nationally the Minnesota Republicans failed as well. It is a little more difficult to lay sweeping blame on them for failing legislatively as the Democrats held the Senate. However, the tide has been turning for some time against the GOP. In 2004 they lost a substantial portion of their majority in the House. Instead of entrenching themselves in their principles they used the one seat majority as an excuse to run away from conservativism.
So, the Minnesota GOP failures are less obvious to the casual observer and for that reason I will break them down to a race-by-race analysis.
The Governor's race will be considered differently from the other races simply because Tim Pawlenty won. This is unfortunate as Pawlenty's victory came from Mike Hatch's melt down in the waning days of the campaign.
Pawlenty ran an almost ineffective campaign which had as one of its main tenets Hatch's un-gubernatorial personality and temper. Hatch's handlers did a good job of keeping a very unlikable Hatch as far out of the light as possible. They also did a great job of removing Hatch from as much opportunity to display his temper. That is…until the hectic overscheduled and fly-by-the-seat nature of the last week made the job too difficult for Hatch's handlers.
Judi Dutcher's E85 comments were enlightening to the public and maybe a bit offensive to the rural communities that have E85 laws artificially subsidizing them. The reality is Dutcher was the Lieutenant Governor candidate and few people expect anything from this candidate. Even Hatch's response to this was innocuous as far as swaying people. It was a roll-your-eyes moment, but it was not impacting. "I know more about E85 than Pawlenty"…yeah, so what and shut up.
It was Hatch's reaction to continued questioning that may have swayed enough of the voters out-state to cause him to lose. Perhaps it came out of frustration that the media was actually giving him tough questions that broke the camel's back. In the end, calling a reporter a "Republican whore" for simply asking questions about the E85 ordeal was out of line. That is what cost Hatch this race.
Pawlenty did not win it. Hatch lost it.
There is also likely to be some discussion about how many votes Peter Hutchinson pulled from Hatch. Was it enough to also have caused Hatch to lose? Honestly there are two answers to this. First, if the Republicans and Democrats have not yet figured out the costs of ignoring third party candidates then they deserve to have their support drawn away by the third parties. Second, I believe that Hutchinson pulled an equal number from both sides, if not pulling mostly from Pawlenty.
The dynamics in a nutshell were that Pawlenty was abandoned by fiscal conservatives and Hutchinson was the most fiscal conservative of the three main candidates. Hutchinson was not as socially conservative as Pawlenty, but more so than Hatch. This likely appealed to the moderates and to the libertarian leaning Republicans. Democrats were also solidly united at defeating Pawlenty more than the Republicans were united in returning him to office.
Pawlenty's failures to his base are easy enough to point out, but his disillusioned base has done a good job of pointing those out for the past 2 years (myself included). The added kick to Pawlenty's support were the "fee vs tax" ordeal, Twins stadium circumventing a citizen vote, being effectively (though erroneously) blamed for the impact of Local Government Aid cuts and being blamed for the government shutdown. These pushed away too many independent and moderate voters.
How did the Republicans expect to hold their base through 2006 after their performance in 2005 and 2006? To begin with they did very little to get in the way of huge growth in the state budget. Fiscal conservatives were looking to the state House for this front to be held. The usurpation of voter initiative with regards to a Twins stadium while using the line, "the voters should decide their laws" to push for a Defense of Marriage Amendment was strangely missed from the "flip-flop" criticism.
Worse was the government shutdown aftermath. Leading up to and even during the government shutdown Republicans were pointing out how little they noticed the absence of government. All the while they were bending over backwards to get a deal done. By bending over backwards that means giving more than they received and installing a "fee" that acted like a "tax" but they insisted was really a "fee".
While saying on the one had the government shut down was a good thing the Republicans on the other hand did all they could to minimize the impact and damage from it. The signal to the state: the Republicans were giving lip service to the shutdown-is-good. Really they thought it was bad and they were not being forthright about it. How can the public put any confidence in them after that?
The MN GOP has been in a tailspin for quite some time. The problems are many. Two of them I think are worthy of mention more this election than in previous ones.
First of all there is very little standard in running a Basic Political Organization Unit. The party should be running the administration from the top while leaving the decisions of platform, agenda and candidate endorsements at the BPOU level. If just a handful of BPOU's end up with poor or non-existent leadership then the party's entire Senate district's slate of candidates will fail. This leads into the other problem in the MN GOP that must be fixed.
While I have been very critical of the Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer for her poor performance in office, I do embrace her great advice about coattails. Contrary to popular belief, coattails go up the ticket not the other way around. In 2006 the MN GOP focused almost exclusively on 3 races: Governor, 6th Congressional District and US Senate. They neglected the local legislative races and the other 3 statewide races. Coattails go up the ticket.
The GOP got that backwards and they were unable to energize their base. The base turned out, but their support was for a principle of "change" instead of party loyalty.
Coming next: Results--Statewide part 2