‘We can’t let Darth Vader into the room’: why Rubio’s Minnesota win says as much about Trump as it does about Rubio

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Republicans checking in at the Senate District 49 caucus in Edina on Tuesday night.

Minnesota gave presidential candidate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio his only win on Super Tuesday, with a solid 36 percent of the vote at the Republican precinct caucuses.

And, yet, because of the way Minnesota proportions the awarding of delegates — coupled with Trump’s wins in other Super Tuesday states — Rubio’s victory means very little in his quest for the Republican nomination for president.

What also became clear in interviews with Rubio supporters on caucus night: Not a small number of those voters were motivated as much by stopping Trump as they were by propelling Rubio.

“Donald Trump is divisive, and a nomination for Trump will be the death knell of the conservative movement for generations to come,” said 32-year-old Edina voter Neil Busticker, who voted for Rubio. “We can’t let Darth Vader into the room.”

Betsy Elmore, another Edina voter, took a more positive view of Rubio. “We agree on a lot of the issues.”

But her mother, Holly Elmore, agrees with Donald Trump. “I want a nonpolitician who has executive experience and is not beholden to anybody,” she said. Elmore said she’s not a fan of the Trump style — “I’m not in love with the guy” — but does like his lack of political correctness. “That’s why he resonates with people,” she said.

Trump’s resonance was on display Tuesday, winning primaries and caucuses in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

In Minnesota, the real winner may be the state Republican Party. With a turnout of 111,253 voters, the party almost doubled its previous high water mark of 64,000 caucus goers in 2008.

“I’m seeing some younger people coming in,” said Jerry Witkowski, co-chair of the Senate District 49 GOP, in Bloomington and Edina. “I’m seeing … new faces. I don’t know how many we find that we had not discovered before, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there aren’t several hundred new people.”

Those new faces will not only be tapped for volunteer activities like door-knocking, they could help give the party a fresher look. Of course, to do that, the new voters who showed up on caucus night would have to stick around and support Republicans regardless of who becomes the presidential nominee.

“I think they all want to participate in their presidential preference ballot and see what the outcome is,” Witkowski said. “I think after they read the outcome, you’ll see some people who are disappointed that their candidate wasn’t the one selected and they may move on.”

Thirty-two-year-old Edina voter Neil Busticker
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Edina voter Neil Busticker speaking to caucus-goers.

The presidential preference ballot was just the beginning for some caucus-goers. Each precinct selected delegates to advance to Senate district conventions, which proceed to select delegates to move to congressional district conventions. From there, delegates move to the state party convention, which ultimately chooses the delegates to represent Minnesota at the Republican National Convention in July.

Minnesota will send 38 delegates to the national convention. With several election twists still expected in the primary season, the final apportionment could remain unknown until the state party convention at the end of May.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/02/2016 - 10:25 am.

    Flame-out: Alert Cruz Missile Command

    Minnesota Republicans are more astute than given credit.
    Trump was rejected and Cruz lacked fuel.
    Given the many “Cruz Whistle” stops here that failed to persuade, we might take Ted’s results as fair foreshadowing.

    In this case, “the Nose didn’t Know.”

    [By the bye, Minnesota Democrats also exhibited resistance to infomercials, instead going to the store to “feel the Bern.”]

  2. Submitted by charles thompson on 03/02/2016 - 10:32 am.

    darth vader?

    Ted Cruz is the Vader clone, not Trump.

  3. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/02/2016 - 10:36 pm.

    The best…

    The best part of the outrage of establishment, elected, GOP officials over Trump’s rise is that they overlook the small fact that they have a less than 10% general approval rating and not a lot more even within their own party and now they’re shocked by what is happening.

    Guess what fellas: the Republican rank and file do not like you, do not trust you, and do not plan to follow you any longer. How low is your status with the rank and file? The best estimate can be found by studying the ascendency of Donald J Trump. Consider all the things about Trump you find revolting and then reflect on the fact that your voters will cheerfully overlook all of that just to find an alternative to you!

    Every time Trump plumbs a new low and you’re certain that he’s done for and it just rolls off his back is testimony to the ineptness of GOP office holders. Your voters would rather drink sand than spend another day at your oasis.

    The ultimate reaping what you sow.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/03/2016 - 09:57 am.

      Just one small quibble…

      I think you’ve got this pretty much right (so to speak).

      I believe the issue resides most firmly with the RNC, long run mainly by mastodons with a few tyrannosaurs eating pesky youngsters.

      In 2011, when the big old lumbering Red, Inc. leaders turned the party over to a tyrannosaurid with the sharpest teeth–Reince Priebus (no T Rex for sure), the party turned to grooming their remaining young, rather than eating them.

      Reince supposedly represents the young and rising Red [Cruz & Rubio]. If so, he’s done a lousy job for the most part, with the exception of his success in bringing Paul Ryan up the ladder. [Jeb did not fit the new profile, for sure.]

      Time for more formalization of Independents, but that’s a challenge, given that they/we are very “independent,” and a big bother to both parties.

      Personally, I very much would have liked Sanders and Nader as November choices: two “old guys” who would have communicated well with all ages.

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