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Precinct caucus analysis — what happened?

Analysis of the winners and losers in Tuesday’s precinct caucuses, and what it means for the campaign.

The 2014 Minnesota precinct caucuses are in the history books. The official and complete results have yet to be announced, but the winners and losers are known today.

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For Republicans, the turnout for precinct caucus is nothing else but disappointing and represents a problem for Republicans in 2014. In 2010, 19,723 people attended Republican precinct caucuses and voted in the straw ballot.

As I wrote yesterday, based on conversations with Republicans, the expectation was that the number of number of attendees would be lower than 2010. But how low the turnout was should be a warning sign for Republicans.


Commissioner Jeff Johnson

Yesterday I wrote that Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and State Senator Dave Thompson MUST finish in first and second place. Thompson came in 2nd place, but Johnson finished in 3rd place with 17 percent. Last evening’s straw ballot was a major set-back for Johnson’s campaign.

Johnson finished first in a straw ballot preference poll at the Republican Party of Minnesota’s State Central Committee meeting in October and had been working hard on a straw ballot victory. Johnson’s campaign had flooded activists across Minnesota with full-color mailings and videos promoting precinct caucuses. Johnson’s campaign will have to reevaluate their entire strategy and Johnson will need to determine if he can remain a candidate for governor.

Sen. Dave Thompson

I wrote last week that Thompson needed a strong showing in the Republican Party of Minnesota’s straw ballot preference poll for governor and he did, coming in 2nd place with 26 percent. The decision by Thompson’s campaign to announce his selection of State Senator Michelle Benson was a big boost to his campaign. By selecting his running mate before precinct caucuses, “Team Thompson” was able to visit more precinct caucus locations across Minnesota on Tuesday. A great night for Thompson’s campaign.

Marty Seifert

Marty Seifert is not abiding by the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement, but he won last evening’s straw ballot for governor. Seifert was the last of the current field of Republican candidates to announce his candidacy for governor, but he quickly gained ground on his Republican rivals.

As I wrote last evening, Seifert could play the role of spoiler and he did, preventing a win by Johnson and Thompson. Seifert has huge momentum going into BPOU conventions. But without analyizing the straw ballot results, BPOU of BPOU, it’s difficult to determine who actually is the front-runner for the endorsement by the Republican Party of Minnesota for governor – Seifert or Thompson.

As I wrote last evening, Kurt Zellers shouldn’t have been expected to have a strong showing in the straw ballot and he didn’t. Zellers’ fundraising totals were very impressive and he has the ability to continue his campaign into the primary election in August.

Scott Honour

As with Zellers, there was no expectation that Scott Honour was to have a strong showing at precinct caucuses. But Honour did get more votes than Zellers and this may hurt Zellers with the donor community. The facts are very simple to understand about Honour’s campaign: they raised the most money of any of the Republican campaigns for governor in 2013. Honour’s campaign will likely be the most well-funded Republican campaign operation for governor, one that can also spend money building campaign assets, while also having the ability to re-fill the campaign coffers quickly.Honour’s campaign continues with new momentum, having done surprisingly well at precinct caucuses. 

U.S. Senate

Sen. Julianne Ortman

State Senator Julianne Ortman was expected to win and she did win the straw ballot for U.S. Senate. But the size of her victory was surprising, as she didn’t receive more than 1/3 of the total vote and she didn’t win by double-digits. Her victory is anything but comforting for Ortman.

Ortman was taking some heat with Republican activists and U.S. Senate candidate Chris Dahlberg for not releasing her fundraising totals last week. Yesterday, Ortman announced preliminary fundraising totals, showing she raised close to $250,000 in 2013, far behind Republican rival Mike McFadden and U.S. Senator Al Franken. Yesterday, a local Republican leader in Ortman’s home area endorsed Dahlberg’s campaign for the U.S. Senate, which is a sign of more trouble to come for her campaign. Ortman’s campaign needs an overhaul if she wants to remain a credible candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Undecided will appeared as an option on both ballots Republican precinct caucuses and as I wrote, in the U.S. Senate race, “undecided” placed high in the final tabulation of votes. 16 percent of Republicans voted for undecided last evening in the U.S. Senate race – a huge number.

Mike McFadden

The most-well funded Republican campaign for the U.S. Senate, Mike McFadden, wasn’t expected to have a strong showing in yesterday’s straw ballot – but he did, finishing in 2nd place. McFadden has not agreed to abide by the endorsement of the Republican Party of Minnesota for the U.S. Senate. McFadden is running in the Republican primary election in August. Like with Honour in the governor’s race, McFadden’s candidacy continues well past yesterday’s precinct caucuses.

6th Congressional District

Republicans in the 6th Congressional District had a straw ballot preference poll for candidates for Congress. Former Representative Tom Emmer, former Representative Phil Krinkie and Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, are all Republican candidates hoping to replace Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in Congress. Emmer exceeded all predictions by winning the straw ballot with nearly 70 percent of the vote.  Emmer’s nearest competitor, finished 50 percentage points behind Emmer.

Emmer has raised the most money of all the candidates in the 6th Congressional District – with a 10-1 lead over his closest rival, Sivarajah. The size of Emmer’s win, plus his vast campaign resources, should have Krinkie and Sivarajah rethinking their campaign strategies and determine if they have any credible path to victory. The Minnesota DFL had only one contested statewide race, as Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is not seeking re-election. Governor Mark Dayton and his newly announced candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Tina Smith, are not being opposed for re-election.

U.S Senate Al Franken was also not being opposed for re-election, therefore the number of attendees at precinct caucuses should be significantly lower than number of attendees at Republican precinct caucuses.

The final number won’t be reported until Monday, but if the number of total attendees at precinct caucuses for the DFL and GOP are close, this could be a sign of malaise amongst Republican activists. Even with multiple candidates not abiding by the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement for statewide offices, they should have more attendees at precinct caucuses.

This post was written by Michael Brodkorb and originally published on – an inside view of Minnesota politics. Follow on Twitter: @politicsdotmn.

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