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Can the Minnesota Republican Party hold on to non-Republican voters who voted for Donald Trump?

Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack believes his Democratic party has a problem. Democrats lost this election cycle, he says, because they neglected the rural voter.  

The Minnesota Republican party has the problem in reverse. How does it hold on to the non-metro, non-Republican voters who voted for Donald Trump, which almost allowed him to defeat Hillary Clinton in the state?  

The party’s Republican national committeewoman Janet Beihoffer maintains there’s real opportunity given Trump’s showing and the GOP legislative victories that give the party control of the state House and Senate. “The overall deal can be capitalized on because we did flip the Senate and we did increase [the Republican majority in] the House,” she said. 

The prospects are especially tantalizing for 2018, when the there’s an open seat for governor.  “Do we get someone who runs for governor who understands why those people voted for Trump?” Beihoffer wonders. 

Statistically, the Republican party can determine who those voters are.  MinnPost reporter Greta Kaul has a good breakdown of where they live and how they have voted in the past. The party can look at other voting patterns to determine whether the voters who gave Clinton the edge will show up in a non-presidential election year.  

But the party will need more than data.  It will need a candidate that can talk about goals and objectives in a way that resonates. Jobs, the increase of health insurance premiums, and education likely still will be top issues. But a suburban voter’s concern is different from a rural voter’s. 

Beihoffer looks at it this way: “Often the metro area worker works on the abstract, on a computer,” she said.  “But a manufacturer or a farmer or a construction worker works with the tangible.” 

Janet Beihoffer
Janet Beihoffer

So while a lot of voters may rank education as a top concern, communicating how to reform education will be different from group to group, even if the solution is the same.

The Minnesota Republican Party has another challenge. It can claim no statewide elected politicians. Gov. Mark Dayton and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are not just symbolic leaders of the DFL; they provide the matrix for generally consistent DFL politics and policy.

The Republican party, by contrast, tends to operate in power silos — state House, state Senate, three congressional seats, and the state party itself. Beihoffer and others say that without a current statewide leader, improving intra-party communication is essential if Republicans want a coherent approach to voters — especially Trump voters — in the next election.

And the Republican Party of Minnesota, like the national GOP, has one more question mark: the performance of President Donald Trump.  “If he sets a plan to get rid of Obamacare, if he eases business regulations, if he turns education back to the states, the Trump voter stays with Trump,” Beihoffer said.

But if the honeymoon ends quickly, the Trump voter may forget the party that brought him to dance, and Minnesota Republicans may need to reconsider their campaign options leading up to 2018.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/02/2016 - 11:38 am.

    The rhetorical question

    …in the headline begs for an answer. Mine is a fervent “I hope not.”

    Whether the state GOP can “…get someone who runs for governor who understands why those people voted for Trump” depends upon whether Minnesota voters want someone as Governor who reflects the same prejudices and lack of knowledge displayed by Mr. Trump at the national level. I have faith that, if Minnesotans are as racist, misogynistic and hostile to immigrants as Mr. Trump’s vote total suggests, there seems a good chance Minnesota’s Republican Party can find someone who will demonstrate the same kind of bigotry in a statewide race. These are, after all, the same people who proposed blatantly prejudicial amendments to the state constitution just a few years ago.

    Beyond various prejudices on display, there will – and should be – discussion of the state’s economy. I have complete faith, again, in the ability of the state GOP to turn the fact that the state has a sizable surplus in the treasury, and according to various published metrics, has performed better economically than most of its neighbors during Mark Dayton’s tenure, into some sort of “The sky is falling!!” economic catastrophe from which only a Republican can save us. That assertion will be purest horsepockey, but that won’t stop true believers in the state GOP from saying it with a sincere-sounding voice and a straight face.

    I pretty much expect President Trump to do everything in his power to destroy what little private-sector union labor is left in the country, so union miners in the Arrowhead and elsewhere in the state might be among the first to figure out that the Republican agenda doesn’t really include them. That’s the point where some Trump voters might begin to have second thoughts, but we’ll see…

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 12/02/2016 - 01:42 pm.

    There will be abundant voter’s remorse.

    When it is confirmed that Trump is a man without any plans, I believe there will be significant voter’s remorse with the Trump voters. He has already backed away from a significant portion of what he campaigned on. Trump is going to find out it is much harder to govern than it is to rabble-rouse. He must work with people instead of just dictating to people. He will lose his Twitter rights, which will deal him a crippling blow. He will be sheltered from all the attention that he seeks to satisfy his narcissism. He will find it is a lonely job. Maybe someone will distract him by challenging his place of birth or the legal status of his wife for four years. His thin skin will not wear well with all the criticism that will be coming his way. It is much more difficult to make millions of people satisfied than just satisfying himself.

    Trump’s so-called triumph in Indiana, by giving a tax break to Carrier to stay in Indiana where Pence is the governor, is absolute peanuts. WOW! What an accomplishment! If it was the right thing to do, why didn’t Pence give the tax break to them before? Carrier is one company out of thousands that will offshore their work. Now what will Trump do?

    Trump will have trouble working with the Republican Party because it is made up a disparate group of angry people made up of Republicans, Democrats who are still Democrats, and Independents who are still Independents that happened to vote for a Republican this time. Trump is not a leader, so the Republicans still don’t have a real leader. Voters remorse will be setting in soon when the voters realize they are not getting what they voted for. Trump won’t be able to hang on the so-called non-Republicans.

    Trump’s failures to deliver campaign promises to the cross over non-Republicans will make it too hard for the state Republican Party to hang onto them. The state Republican Party will have the same trouble leading the disparate group of non-Republicans as Trump will have at the national level.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/02/2016 - 01:57 pm.

    Maybe, Maybe Not

    I don’t want to make predictions, but there are a few factors working against Republicans keeping Trump voters.

    The first is the historical pattern that the party in the White House virtually always loses votes in the mid-term election. What is Trump going to be able to do to reverse that course?

    Second, populist rages are hard things to sustain. Trump now has to govern, and start to deliver on his promises. That is never easy for a President to do, but when you have an unpopular President (check the polling numbers) and an agenda that will not be popular once it’s in place–say good bye to Medicare!–it’s going to be well-nigh impossible.

    Third, I don’t think the average Trump supporter is all that interested in continuing as a part of the process. It’s all about being an outsider and irritating the Establishment. Actual governance is not a high priority.

    Fourth, Trump lost Minnesota. He lost it by a surprisingly narrow margin, but it still means his side has to persuade some people that there is a reason to change their minds. He is not only going to have to deliver, but he will have to do it in a way that doesn’t reinforce the reasons many of those to be convinced had for not voting for him in the first place.

    As I said, I hate to make predictions. I just don’t see things looking entirely rosy for The Triumph of Trumpism.

  4. Submitted by Jeffrey McIntyre on 12/02/2016 - 04:59 pm.

    Keep the Vote

    There is a YUGE infrastructure bill in congress currently, that contains a “buy American” clause (like steel, pipe, etc.). Paul Ryan and his minions are trying to quash it (says it makes the projects too expensive). First test of Trump’s promises. If they drop it, folks on the Range might not be pleased. With that said, if you look at the vote totals (I did) HRC got 200,000 less votes than Obama in 2012, Trump got 2,000 more than Romney. I don’t think this was a GOP uprising….more like a democrat forfeit. I’m sure the cabinet that is stacked with Goldman Sachs alumni will be looking out for the little guys.

  5. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 12/02/2016 - 05:27 pm.


    What results will Republicans achieve nationally and in Minnesota.

    Trump made a lot of promises. He is now doing the switch part of bait and switch, in determines backing off virtually all changes he made. For Republicans who wanted something less extreme (and accepted that he was lying to morivate the base) they may be happy. It might be different for those who expected promises to be kept.

    He also can be judged for his appointments and his personal conduct. Some of his appointments are almost guarented to end poorly – his alt-right chief strategist and Attorney General picks show a total lack of judgment.

    His nepotism, poor boundaries with foreign leaders and lack of conflict of interest rules means he will face more active opposition than necessary. He has always considered himself above the rules and it shows. He is also dependent on an ineffective congressional that has produced few tangible results – with ideas like privatized Social Security than will produce profits for Wall Street, but not economic security for seniors.

    In Minnesota, will be legislature take action early enough to get Dayton’s signature. This is the year it could happen, but they don’t have votes to sustain a veto. Dayton isn’t running again, so he has no incentive to not veto anything he considers objectionable. It should be interesting!

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/02/2016 - 07:22 pm.


    “If he sets a plan to get rid of Obamacare, if he eases business regulations, if he turns education back to the states, the Trump voter stays with Trump,” Beihoffer said.

    I daresay if that’s why Republicans think they won, they’re as out of touch as the Dems. None of those things will create decent, well-paying working class jobs. If Trump doesn’t deliver that & generate some wage inflation for workers without college degrees, the Repubs will lose the opportunity they have now.

  7. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 12/03/2016 - 12:09 am.


    “The Republican party, by contrast, tends to operate in power silos — state House, state Senate, three congressional seats, and the state party itself.” Ms. Brucato has introduced us to new political terminology. I posit she hasn’t actually stepped inside a “silo.” If she had, she just might not connect the Republican Party to that type of stench. Or would she?

  8. Submitted by Dora Smith on 12/03/2016 - 08:31 am.

    Depends on what the Democrats do!

    What Democrats who voted for Trump do in the future, will frankly depend on what the Democratic Party does. If they throw out their medievally corrupt, out of it leadership and choose candidates who are even minimally electable, I predict they’ll win the next Presidential election by a landslide. Otherwise… 8 years of Trump. And I’ll be voting for him. Again.

    GET IT!!

  9. Submitted by joe smith on 12/03/2016 - 09:02 am.

    If Trump creates jobs he will be successful.

    Plain and simple… Obama did everything he could to pander to the “Greenie Gang” and neglected the huge amount of jobs fracking, natural gas, oil and clean coal produce. That was Obama in a nut shell, idealistic over pragmatic. Trump won’t suffer from that. Plus Trump is not above meeting with Carrier president to try to save jobs, even for 1,000 regular working folks who take showers after work and didn’t go to an Ivy League school. Obama saved his time for Jeffery Emetlt from GE and other elites that pushed his agenda.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/09/2016 - 09:20 am.

      “If Trump Creates Jobs . . .”

      I thought the conservative orthodoxy was that government doesn’t create jobs. Or is the power and prestige of the presidency going to be used over the next four years for the preservation of a few hundred jobs here and there?

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 12/04/2016 - 06:46 am.

    The last time

    Republicans lost the elections of 2008 and 2012 because they elected a president in 2000 and
    2004 who was vastly incompetent, one who nearly destroyed the economy while engaging in needless foreign wars. Although it remains to be determined if they have learned from their experience, early signs are not promising.

  11. Submitted by David LaPorte on 12/04/2016 - 07:34 am.

    The Jessie Ventura Effect

    Jessie got elected based, in large part, on being something different (which he certainly was, but often not in a good way). How many of the people who voted for him are still voting for the Independence Party? Precious few.

    Trump’s victory will be discussed for decades, but there doesn’t seem to be a single defining cause. A major factor for swing voters was that people saw it a choice between change and the status quo, much like the the Ventura campaign. Change won. But Trump’s positions were very vague (“you’ll win so much that you’ll get sick of winning) and the modestly specific ones were ever-changing. People who were dissatisfied with how the country worked for them could hear what they wanted to hear.

    Now the rubber hits the road. Trump has already broken many of his few campaign promises, and he isn’t even president yet. He’s also filling his cabinet and other high-level positions with billionaires and the Alt-Right. His appeal was that he positioned himself as a populist, but he never was one. He’s the quintessential elitist. He’ll almost certainly deliver change, but I doubt that most of the change will be what the swing voters wanted.

    The Democrats certainly have their work cut out for them. Blue collar voters who were a reliable pillar of their base mostly voted for Trump this year. They felt that the Democrats had become the party of the intellectual elite. The Democrats need to regain the trust of the blue collar voters. Regaining trust is always harder than keeping it.

    However, the Minnesota Republicans, as a party, are dysfunctional, although some of their members are strong candidates. Their finances have been chaotic, leading to an eviction from their headquarters, and they almost failed to get Trump on the 2016 ballot. While individual candidates may continue to be an obstacle for the Democrats, the Republican Party will probably continue to be an ostacle mostly to itself.

  12. Submitted by Nick Foreman on 12/06/2016 - 04:57 pm.

    Easy answer


  13. Submitted by DENNIS SCHMINKE on 12/06/2016 - 10:13 pm.

    The Answer

    Short answer is ‘no’. I am solid Republican, but still see things realistically. Just as with Democrats–these majorities will suffer the same fate eventually:

    1) They will over-reach and/or neglect to stick to the important basics (as Dems did).
    2) The voters are a fickle lot…and expect more than politics–or government–can ever really deliver; which is to say–fixing all the stuff that is wrong with their lives.

    Government can occasionally improve something that has gone wrong (generally something that we a government ‘big fix’ not long before–MNSure, anyone?). But fixing most of what is wrong on one’s life is primarily a do-it-yourself project.

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