What it will take for GOP presidential contenders to win Minnesota’s caucuses

REUTERS/Mary Schwalm
When Walker dropped out of the presidential field, representatives for Marco Rubio reached out to Marty Seifert seeking his support.

Winning a precinct caucus in Minnesota can’t be done by a grandiose gesture, by riding a wave of destiny.

Marty Seifert
Marty Seifert

Just ask Marty Seifert, the former Minnesota House minority leader whose organization and persistence led to victory at the Republican gubernatorial straw polls in 2010 and 2014, results that have prompted several GOP presidential campaigns to seek his support for 2016. 

Seifert was a state chair for Scott Walker. When Walker dropped out of the presidential field, representatives for Marco Rubio and Rand Paul reached out.  “It was less than 24 hours when both of those campaigns contacted me,” Seifert said. 

“I don’t hold any office, so I’m not sure why people are so hot to trot but they are interested in how we did it,” he said.    

It was a lot of effort and a lot of work, Seifert recalled. “It takes months of organizing. We had people identified in every county as Seifert leaders or campaign captains. And we had a lot of current and former lawmakers, either a senator or a House member … read letters on my behalf.  We really targeted those people,” he said.

That display of support is particularly effective, Seifert believes because “generally people will say,  ‘I know that representative so and so, and if they’re for Marty Seifert he must be a good guy.’ We really capitalized on that aspect of things.”    

In 2010, Seifert won the precinct caucus straw poll with just over 50 percent of the vote. In 2014, he won it with 29 percent of the vote. (In both cases, Seifert eventually lost his bid to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee — to Tom Emmer in 2010 and to Jeff Johnson in 2014.)

Sen. Dave Thompson
Sen. Dave Thompson

In the 2014 poll, Seifert barely edged out state Sen. Dave Thompson, also a Walker backer, who had a different strategy. “I had the benefit of name recognition,” said Thompson, who had been a the host of radio talk show and  a conservative favorite known for taking on organized labor with legislative proposals and pithy quotes. 

But that won’t work in the race to win the Republican nomination for president, Thompson contends. “It’s money, money, money,” he said. “They just flat out have to have money.  Yes, you can do things with volunteers but you have to pay people to be organized. That’s why so many people think it comes down Jeb Bush.” 

Seifert concurs on the need for paid staff. “Unless you have super dedicated volunteers, you have to have a day-to-day person who is doing this, which I had when I was running for governor,” he said. “It’s not a casual thing. You can’t end up in mid-February and get people out for the caucuses on March 1.” 

A few Republican presidential candidates have named state leaders. State Sen. David Hann has pledged his support for Carly Fiorina. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson is working on behalf Marco Rubio.  Rand Paul has a paid state organizer and the benefit of an organization his father Ron Paul developed when Minnesota delegates pledged their votes to Paul at the 2014 GOP national convention.

“But it’s anybody’s game in Minnesota right now,” Seifert said.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by lee wick on 10/19/2015 - 11:20 am.

    Nothing Will Help

    The state is full of conservative people but they all vote DFL. Mom and Dad did so they lockstep. The smart state? LOL

  2. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 10/19/2015 - 11:31 am.

    How do the names Donald Trump or Ben Carson not appear in a column about the state of Republican race in Minnesota? Not only are they 1-2 nationally, but they were 1-2 in the state party’s straw poll at the State Fair.

  3. Submitted by Jim Million on 10/19/2015 - 05:08 pm.

    Read the Lead and the Close everyone

    The article is about how it needs to be done in Minnesota, not Iowa or New Hampshire.

    And, the more subtle subtext is the fact that national candidates are mostly ignoring Minnesota, at least so far: “A few Republican presidential candidates have named state leaders.” Trump and Carson are not in the list, perhaps because they know Minneapolis and Saint Paul are DNC branch offices. Why should they bother? Perhaps they will later, if Minnesota looks favorable. Electoral history indicates that is unlikely. But, then, we never really know what our stalwart Iron Rangers think until ballots are counted and counties report. Bless them.

    On a page that continues to consider “A few things to understand about R.T. Rybak’s criticism of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” it’s certainly fair to consider what might be going on with Minnesota Republicans, as relatively meaningless that may seem to most readers.

    Anyone who daily needs to know more about Trump and Carson may simply tune to any cable channel of preference. But, then, they won’t be talking about Minnesota.

  4. Submitted by Jim Million on 10/19/2015 - 05:09 pm.

    Read the Lead and the Close everyone

    The article is about how it needs to be done in Minnesota, not Iowa or New Hampshire.

    And, the more subtle subtext is the fact that national candidates are mostly ignoring Minnesota, at least so far: “A few Republican presidential candidates have named state leaders.” Trump and Carson are not in the list, perhaps because they know Minneapolis and Saint Paul are DNC branch offices. Why should they bother? Perhaps they will later, if Minnesota looks favorable. Electoral history indicates that is unlikely. But, then, we never really know what our stalwart Iron Rangers think until ballots are counted and counties report. Bless them.

    On a page that continues to consider “A few things to understand about R.T. Rybak’s criticism of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” it’s certainly fair to consider what might be going on with Minnesota Republicans, as relatively meaningless that may seem to most readers.

    Anyone who daily needs to know more about Trump and Carson may simply tune to any cable channel of preference. But, then, they won’t be talking about Minnesota.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 10/20/2015 - 08:40 am.

      Wouldn’t the Iowa model be applicable here?

      And whether or not our state is a “DNC Branch Office”, it still has delegates that will be in play to determine the GOP nominee. It would seem to me that a story about how outsiders like Trump and Carson intend to turn their popular support *in Minnesota* into a caucus-winning strategy. Instead, we’ve just got Brucato milling her “usual suspects” Rolodex.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/20/2015 - 03:31 pm.

    Realism

    That the two ‘popular’ leaders in polling haven’t made an effort at building MN organizations is perhaps indicative of their real chances of winning the nomination.

  6. Submitted by Jim Boulay on 10/21/2015 - 07:39 am.

    Ron Paul GOP?

    Ron Paul’s people took over the MN GOP caucuses, encouraged committed national convention delegates to change their votes and vote for Ron Paul. They ended up voting ALL Minnesota’s convention delegates for Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential elections! Cindy barely mentions this in the last line. Why is she talking about Seifert instead of the Ron Paul faction that blew up the MN GOP delegates at the last GOP national convention? It would seem like they were the REAL leaders of the GOP from this state!

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