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D.C. Memo: Minnesota no longer largest turnout state

Plus: Emmer begins leadership push and Republicans assess what went wrong

Mount Zion Temple on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Nov. 8, 2022.
Mount Zion Temple on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Nov. 8, 2022.
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans voted in Tuesday’s midterm than in 2018. Minnesota was part of that trend and the state has lost its status as having the highest turnout in the country.

That honor went to Oregon this year, where 68% of the voters went to the polls, beating the state’s 2018 record. Second place went to Maine, where 61.6% of the state’s eligible voters cast a midterm ballot, according to a Washington Post analysis of Associated Press and U.S. Elections Project data.

Minnesota came in third.

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, unofficial turnout on Tuesday was about 60.66%. There were 2,511,617 Minnesotans who cast a ballot out of 4,140,218 eligible voters. In 2018, a midterm characterized by high voter enthusiasm, the turnout in Minnesota was 63.8%.

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Still, turnout in a midterm usually pales to that of one in a presidential election year, and by all metrics, Tuesday’s midterm attracted relatively high participation. (Minnesota’s turnout in the 2020 election exceeded 79%)

“I’m proud of Minnesotans for continuing to participate in democracy at such high levels,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. “Every election is different and there are a variety of reasons why people choose to vote or choose not to vote. For my part, I’m committed to the work of ensuring each Minnesotan knows their vote counts and can make a difference in their lives.”

Votes are still being tallied and in some states it may take weeks to know the exact number of those who voted. But, according to the Washington Post analysis, the votes counted so far showed divergent turnout rates across the nation.

In Mississippi and West Virginia, fewer than 35% of eligible voters went to the polls.

Election over, Emmer campaigns for House leadership job

As votes were still being counted and control of the next Congress had not been determined, Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th, on Thursday laid out his vision for a Republican -led House, with himself in the No.3 leadership position.

Emmer emailed all GOP House members and those newly elected House members his pitch as to why he should become the next GOP House whip, touting his work as the head of the Republican National Campaign Committee.

“Over the last four years, you trusted me to lead the NRCC and help us retake the majority. Thanks to your unwavering support, we delivered on that mission,” Emmer wrote.

Emmer did help flip 15 Democratic seats in 2020, but those were not enough for Republicans to seize the gavel from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

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The GOP may retire Pelosi as speaker after the final votes of this midterm are counted, but that majority is expected to be a lot slimmer that the GOP had hoped.

Still, Emmer told his Republican colleagues the GOP “helped elect the most talented and diverse group of Republican legislators or all time and I’m incredibly proud of the team we have built.”

“As I’ve told many of you, you run to win, and you win to govern. That is why I am asking for your support to be the next Majority Whip to help us deliver on the governing promises we made to the American people,” Emmer wrote.

Emmer also released a list of 38 endorsements from fellow House Republicans and about a half dozen incoming freshmen elected to the U.S. House. Those incoming freshmen included Ryan Zinke of Montana and Mike Lawler of New York, who defeated Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney.

Minnesota’s Republican lawmakers – Reps. Pete Stauber, Michelle Fischbach and Brad Finstad – were also on the list of endorsements.

In the contest for House GOP whip, Emmer faces two tough rivals, Reps. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, who is leading Emmer’s campaign for majority whip, said Emmer will win despite Tuesday’s disappointing results for the GOP, which had hoped for a “red wave” to wash over the nation.

“Emmer will still win,” Reschenthaler said. “Tom is the guy who helped us pick up seats last cycle when we were supposed to get washed out. He picked up seats (on Tuesday.)”

Referring to the expectation of a thinner than hoped for GOP House majority, Reschenthaler said “we are going to need one hell of a whip operation.”

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“That’s why we need somebody as skilled as Emmer in the post,” the Pennsylvania Republican said.

Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said Emmer should be judged by his colleagues on “his full body of work.”

“And the full body of work includes that he moved Republicans from being in the minority into the majority,” Jacobs said.

House leadership races are scheduled for next Tuesday, but that could change.

In those elections, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seeking to be House Speaker and the current Republican whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is running to be House Majority Leader.

 ‘November Surprise’ 

Meanwhile, Emmer, who led House GOP candidates in making crime and the economy major campaign themes, told the Washington Post he’s looking into whether concerns about election deniers were a factor in Democrats’ success on Election Day.

“We have to wait and see,” he said.

President Biden was roundly criticized by members of his own party for making threats to democracy the closing argument in the campaign. Former President Obama also repeated that theme in a flurry of last-minute campaign stops for key Democratic candidates.

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On Wednesday, Biden said warnings about the dangers to American democracy had struck a nerve.

“Voters spoke clearly about their concerns, and they sent a clear and unmistakable message they want to preserve our democracy,” Biden said during a Wednesday news conference.

The results of Tuesday’s elections – which at the end of the week left not only the makeup of the House but the fate of the Senate in the air – resulted in a lot of handwringing in the GOP about the impact of former President Trump, the quality of certain GOP candidates and the party’s messaging.

Those questioning the reason for the results included Tom Weiler, a Republican who lost his bid to unseat Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd.

“70% (sic) of Minnesotans felt our country was headed in the wrong direction going into Election Day. 100% (sic) of Minnesotan Statewide (sic) and Congressional incumbents were re-elected on Election Day. November Surprise,” Weiler tweeted.