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2014 elections pose uncertainty for GOP in Minnesota

MinnPost photo by James Nord
DFL incumbents Al Franken and Mark Dayton have had relatively strong poll numbers, which portend difficulty for Republicans in attracting strong challengers.

Conventional wisdom has it that the 2014 elections will be a Republican year. That’s because the party opposite the president has a very good track record in what have become known as off-year elections. That trend will probably hold true in the congressional election next fall.

Gene Lahammer

Allow me to cast a dissenting vote regarding Minnesota. From my vantage point, 2014 will not be a particularly good year for the state GOP.

Republicans will undoubtedly gain some seats in the state House of Representatives, where DFLers hold a 73-61 majority. Many see a GOP majority as inevitable. Maybe not. While GOP gains are highly likely, they may not be enough to command a majority. It’s possible the next House majority will control no more than 70 seats. Perhaps 69 or 68. However, House DFLers are certainly vulnerable to “over-reach” criticisms on taxes, gay marriage and day-care unionization (state senators are midway through four-year terms, and they are not on the ballot).

Two major reasons the Minnesota Republicans appear to lack a strong political tailwind heading into next year: the important statewide U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. DFL incumbents Al Franken and Mark Dayton have had relatively strong poll numbers, which portend difficulty for Republicans in attracting strong challengers — although the governor’s numbers are sliding, adding to the appearance of vulnerability brought on by the uncertainty of the Vikings stadium deal. Challengers must have the ability to amass multimillion-dollar campaign war chests needed to unseat incumbents. The current GOP crop may have a couple of millionaires, but they are untested in elective office.

Challenger would need national funding

The minimum for a credible statewide campaign probably starts at about $5 million. The state Republican Party has long been plagued by severe financial problems. So the U.S. Senate challenger must be able to attract millions nationally, which comes when the candidate has convinced the big check writers of his or her viability. The GOP 2012 Senate candidate was never able to gain any financial traction, which resulted in a disaster at the polls. The big money actually goes to a separate organization which has no connection to the candidate and can make unlimited “independent expenditures.”

Despite this semi-gloomy assessment of GOP potential, readers should remember the political sands can shift quickly in Minnesota and across the country. And neither party has immunity from the frailty of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Gene Lahammer covered policy and political affairs during much of his 34-year career with the Associated Press. After early retirement in 1994, he served as an auxiliary member of the Star Tribune Editorial Board for 16 years, continued as an election consultant to AP, served briefly as a special correspondent for the New York Times, and has been an occasional magazine contributor.


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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 10/07/2013 - 09:07 am.

    The other national headwind

    Unless the national GOP pulls its head out of the sand and sees the damage it is doing to the economy and the integrity of the government, I think there will be increasing anti-GOP sentiment in Minnesota over the shutdown (if there’s a Federal bond default, then those headwinds will be a force 8 gale).

    The same bull-headed tactics we saw in the MN shutdown are playing out nationally, and Minnesotans did not like our shutdown. But some lessons are hard to learn.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/07/2013 - 09:19 am.

    I Can’t Help but Wonder

    Whether the current shutdown of the Federal Government by the Republicans who, since they can’t win elections are now using extortion to prevent the will of the American people, reflected in the last election from being carried out,…

    doesn’t give the Republican Party a great, big black eye, nationwide, but especially in states like Minnesota, where centrists so clearly decide each election.

    If I were a Republican candidate in Minnesota, I’d be calling every Republican House member, every day, to tell them to stop acting like a gang of street punks trying to extort what they want from all the enterprises in their own neighborhood or they’ll shut them all down,…

    telling them to stop this shutdown, which is ONLY blessing the Democrats (in electoral terms),…

    let the government function normally,…

    and go back to trying to accomplish what they want to accomplish by electing like-minded people to the House and Senate.

    If they CAN’T win elections, they don’t get to call the shots in a Representative Democracy.

  3. Submitted by mark wallek on 10/07/2013 - 09:33 am.

    Real uncertianty is for voter

    GOP or DFL? Do I think any of these folks are really working for the citizen? Not on the evidence of their accomplishments. Let’s see. My northside neighborhood is still being devastated by absentee owners sucking resources out of the neighborhood. Banks still practice usuary in any number of ways, to their profit. The investor class is wooed even as the hourly wage earner is eating a tax increase. Off shore banking practices continue unabated. Interest on savings is laughable and criminally low. Increases in expenses continues even as wages remain stagnant. The earnings of our so-called representatives has gone up during this time of struggle for the citizen, thus is the self-caring and concern most evident. Are you vetted for office yet?

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/07/2013 - 11:08 am.

    When the state is importing

    tens of thousands of new people every year, people who are in search of government benefits, of course it will be hard for the party of fiscal constraint to win any elections. During difficult economic times especially, it’s hard to compete with Santa Claus.

    • Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 10/07/2013 - 01:03 pm.

      We welcome our ‘imports’

      People who bring their talents, their entrepreneur spirit and their energy to our state. We welcome the young and the old, the rich and the not-so-rich, any honest soul who is looking for a place to call home.

      We welcome you to a state that has honest elections, record turnout and an intelligent and engaged community. A state with low unemployment, high education, good health and a bright future.

      We welcome you to Minnesota. Feel free to vote for whomever you wish to.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 10/07/2013 - 04:50 pm.

      The Part of Fiscal Constraint

      happens to be the DFL. Unless you consider declaring bankruptcy, not paying rent, stealing from schools, and lying about your financial state to your donor base to be ‘constraint.’

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 10/07/2013 - 07:45 pm.

      Don’t look like you

      Obviously bad people – what a pathetic joke

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/07/2013 - 08:54 pm.

      Real Estate Listings

      I guess they live in the Mc Mansions abandoned by all of the job creators moving to So Dak and Wisconsin.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/07/2013 - 08:53 pm.

    Fiscal Constraint?

    Are we all on the same planet: Providing $Millions and $Billions of subsidies and tax dodges is not fiscal constraint: Didn’t we just pay “Crystal Sugar Corporation $100’s millions for sugar” Aren’t we building a Stadium for a (Billionaire?) Didn’t see any of those fiscal constraint people put up a bill to abolish the NFL Trust, MLB Trust, NBA Trust, etc. How come? Any particular fiscal constraint reason we give Exxon a $2Bil a year tax break, where is the fiscal constraint bill to get rid of those subsidies, private jets, vacation condo’s etc.? Need we go further?

    Good finance people understand and work both sides of the equation.

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