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5 reasons the DFL will lose ground in 2014

Courtesy of MN House Public Information Services
A lot of signs point to fewer DFLers in the Minnesota Capitol after the 2014 election.

Will the DFL lose ground in state legislative elections in 2014?  Following the 2013 legislative session, there are a lot of things swirling around  suggesting that they might.  In no particular order, here are five things to watch:

Freshman Frailty.  Newly elected DFL freshman won in lots of places in 2012 where they were not expected to win.  There was a good reason why they were not expected to win.  Many of these are difficult districts for DFLers to hang onto under the best of circumstances, and the circumstances will be more difficult than they were in 2012 (see below).  That could make many in this large freshman class of DFLers one hit wonders.

Mid-term MIAs.  Voter turnout among DFLers, especially young people, traditionally is lower in mid-term elections than in presidential elections.  An older, whiter, and smaller electorate was the biggest reason for the 2010 midterm shellacking, and it is likely to happen again.  George Mason University voter turnout expert Michael McDonald explains:

“There is little to nothing Democrats can do to mitigate the drop-off of turnout among their core constituencies that regularly happens — like a clock — when moving from presidential to midterm elections. Indeed, the primary way to stimulate midterm voters who do vote to support Democrats will not be present in 2014: a poorly performing Republican president that Democrats can rally against (e.g., Bush 2006 or Nixon 1974).”

Obama Fatigue.  In the wake of a lot of GOP-fueled noise about the IRS, NSA, AP, and Benghazi, President Obama’s approval rating is slipping into the net negatives.  If this continues or gets worse, it could have a bit of a residual effect down ballot.

Taxapalooza Tall Tale.  The DFL-controlled Legislature debated a long list of taxes in 2013, many of them unpopular with voters.  They only passed two of the taxes – the tobacco tax and tax on top earners.  Polls show that a majority of voters support the DFL-passed taxes on wealthy people and smokers, but they don’t support taxing everything in sight – clothing, haircuts, beer, wine, gas, legal counsel, etc.  The GOP campaign will try to fuel the perception that the DFL taxed everything in sight.  While that is inaccurate, the GOP message machine could make it stick.  After all, polls show that the GOP successfully convinced voters in 2010 mid-term elections that President Obama raised taxes, when he had actually had cut taxes by $240 billion.  Republicans know how to muddy these waters, and the DFL’s long 2013 tax shopping list has handed them a lot of mud.

Gay Marriage.  A recent Star Tribune poll shows that voters are split – 46% agree, 44% disagree, and 10% are not sure — about whether the Minnesota Legislature should have legalized gay marriage.  But the same poll shows that DFLers are very vulnerable outside of the metro area (only 37% agree), among the over 50 year old crowd that disproportionately turns out for midterm elections (only 41% agree), and among the Independents who typically swing elections (only 43% agree).  The line of GOP attack on this is likely to be less about the substance of the issue than that Democrats “spent all their time overstepping on this divisive issue instead of fixing the real problems Minnesota faces.”  In some corners of the electorate this message will have some traction.

I’m not saying it’s a lost cause.  But I am saying it’s a difficult cause.  If I were a freshman DFL legislator, I wouldn’t quit my winter job yet.

This post was written by Joe Loveland and originally published on Wry Wing Politics.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/24/2013 - 07:33 pm.

    It’s OK

    The GOP will bail them out.

  2. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/24/2013 - 07:41 pm.

    Vote With Your Wallet

    The top of the ticket may prove to favor the DFL. At this point Franken and Dayton look like good bets, so the GOP would not seem to a high profile horse race to to motivate their base.

    On the other hand, any conservative money coming in from out of state may make it down to House races rather than the statewide races. We could see some very expensive local contests.

  3. Submitted by Michael Hess on 06/24/2013 - 11:53 pm.


    What about the internet sales tax collection, warehousing services tax, equipment servicing tax, elimination of r and d tax credit, etc. while its misleading to say the DFL implemented every tax discussed its also misleading to say they only implemented two of the ideas and that they are as narrowly focused as just smokers and high income taxpayers.

  4. Submitted by Claude Ashe on 06/26/2013 - 02:59 pm.

    The definition of the word “reason”

    “President Obama’s approval rating is slipping into the net negatives. If this continues or gets worse, it could have a bit of a residual effect down ballot.”

    Yes, and if his numbers get better, that sort of blows your theory. You also don’t consider that, when Minnesota doesn’t burst into spontaneous hell-fire, many opponents of gay marriage might not care so much about objecting anymore.

    You said you’d give 5 REASONS the DFL will (not might, but “will”) lose ground in 2014 but then you slip into speculation.

    You might wish to review the actual definition of the word because what you’re giving us here are not reasons, they are at best, possibilities.

  5. Submitted by Joe Loveland on 07/01/2013 - 03:39 pm.

    Countervailing forces

    In the many state legislative races that will play out in 2014, the DFL will lose some ground, for the reasons stated here, and will gain some ground, for the reasons stated here —

    It’s a little early to say how it will net out overall — too many variables still to play out, as you note here. But those are the major forces pulling in opposite directions.

    Joe Loveland (author of this post)

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