Minnesota GOP candidates strongly reflect Gallup Poll’s national findings of conservative strength

The latest Gallup Poll on ideological identification among Americans is out, and the results are edifying.

“Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June,” the Princeton, N.J.-based polling firm reported. “Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.”

The key group, independents, registered a significant shift to the right, Gallup found, accounting for the increase in the number of Americans who view themselves as conservative. Here’s the nut graph:

“Changes among political independents appear to be the main reason the percentage of conservatives has increased nationally over the past year: the 35% of independents describing their views as conservative in 2009 is up from 29% in 2008.”

Alarm and anger
The poll offers evidence of what many people have known empirically for a long time: Americans increasingly are alarmed by, among other things, runaway federal spending, the increasing corruption and vulgarity of civil society, and the swelling of the federal bureaucracy (public-employee unions are one of the very few growth industries in the country today).

And if other polling data are accurate, the Democratic Party is about to get a very unpleasant tutorial on the anger of independent and moderate Democratic voters when results from the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey come in next month. Stay tuned.

There was no breakdown of the polling data by states, but it is probably safe to assume that conservative principles and values are enjoying renewed popularity in Minnesota, too.

I had an opportunity to see that firsthand a few weeks ago, when I helped moderate a discussion among the nine GOP candidates for governor, including (in alphabetical order) Pat Anderson, Leslie Davis, Rep. Tom Emmer, Bill Haas, Sen.Dave Hann, Phil Herwig, Sen. Mike Jungbauer, Rep. Paul Kohls and Rep. Marty Seifert.

The venue was the Bethesda Church in Prior Lake, which hosted the event sponsored by the 2nd Congressional District (Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Rice and Scott counties) GOP. A large group of people showed up to hear what the candidates had to say, and they said a lot.

If there was one central theme among the candidates’ remarks, it was a devotion to the conservative principles that traditionally are the hallmark of the Republican Party: limited government, an aversion to higher taxes, zero-based budgeting, ending deficit spending, reforming Minnesota’s regulatory environment, improving education and strengthening family values.

That last item is notoriously vague and, moreover, can mean different things to different people. But Seifert was eloquent in bringing the definition home. “Family values are the core beliefs that hold up the nuclear family as the essential moral and ethical unit of society,” he said. There was unanimity among all the candidates that those values have been under attack for a long time, but none offered any specific plans to counteract the trend.

Seifert, by the way, so far is the front-runner in the race. At the state GOP convention Oct. 3 in St. Paul, he finished first in a straw poll with 454 votes, followed by Emmer (238), Anderson (174), Hann (146), Kohls (58), Herwig (14) and Jungbauer (10). Haas and Davis tied for the final spot with 10 votes apiece.

Comments of note
I admit to being a newcomer to local politics, and I am not nearly as conversant about the players and issues as some of my colleagues here at MinnPost, but I was struck by a number of things the candidates said.

Emmer, for one, lamented the rap that Republican candidates are “too conservative and haven’t been true to the party’s principles,” a remark that found resonance among the others.

Davis zeroed in on judicial reform, which long has been one of his key issues. He was adamant, too, that the state and nation “cannot take on more debt to get out of debt.”

Haas argued persuasively for zero-based budgeting in state government, and Jungbauer insisted on the merits of a “flat tax” to invigorate the economy and relieve the burden on state taxpayers.

“I read every bill that crosses my desk [in the Senate],” Jungbauer said, specifically citing measures on transportation, public safety and education. Would that members of Congress were equally as diligent.

Herwig struck a chord with the audience by attacking the “entitlement mentality” that is prevalent among many sectors of society. “It will be the death knell of our country” if it is not brought under control, he said.

Hann wants to reintroduce the “competitive dynamic” to education and health care in the state, and Anderson takes her cue from Ronald Reagan and sees “family, limited government, deficit spending” as issues that will galvanize voters across the state.

Each of these candidates brings unique credentials and qualifications to the GOP gubernatorial race. But if there is one other thing they bring to the table, it is a dedication to the conservative principles and values that in the past have provided a welcoming home to independents and moderate Democrats, alienated by the Democratic Party’s periodic lurch to the far left.

As the Gallup Poll suggests, these candidates definitely are on the right track.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by John N. Finn on 10/28/2009 - 09:33 am.

    No surprise that advocates of limited government don’t offer any specifics as to how government could foster and enforce “family values”. And since deficit spending is a Washington D.C. issue, I’d consider it a favor if our candidates for governor skipped that talking point unless it’s about balancing budgets by bonding for non-capital items.

    I think I know what zero based budgeting is, but would like to hear specifics about implementing it along with education and health care “competitive dynamics”. I’m unfamiliar with what judicial reform is all about, other than our local newspaper article commentators are always complaining about judges accepting plea bargains.

    What I’d most like to see elaborated on is government regulation of business. Perhaps the candidates could cite specific regs, the problem it is intended to solve, whether they think it actually is a problem, if not, why not, and if so, how it could be better addressed in the private sector. I think I’m entitled to at least that much, don’t you think? ;>)

  2. Submitted by Thomas Edman on 10/28/2009 - 09:51 am.

    No by-line on this? Though implicitly, by the side-bar, Michael Bonafield. Not where I expect to find authorship, but…

    Anyway, the sentence quoted from the Gallup results should have been qualified, and maybe not even used in this way.

    To say that conservatives ‘outnumber’ other groups is highly misleading, if not simply wrong.

    The numbers only show that more people describe their views as conservative than in any other single way. But they also show that this is a minority self-identification: 60% of the respondents identify themselves as not conservative (36% moderates + 20% liberal + 4% no response).

  3. Submitted by myles spicer on 10/28/2009 - 11:39 am.

    I would dispute a number of things in this article.

    I doubt the Dems will get an unpleasant surprise in next month’s gubernatorial elections. I do not think the party has “lurched” to left; and Obama has been quite moderate in his proposals.

    the Republicans are the ones with dissent within their party — and now Palin, Pawlenty et al are deserting the GOP endorsed candidates in some elctions in favor of Conservative candidates. That can only help the Dems.

    To say folks are concerned and even upset is true — but we must remember how our country got into this condition and the mess Obama inherited. While people say they distrust Washington, to also hang onto their Medicare, unemployment checks, and various other government programs tightly.

    Additionally, polls (especially a year in advance of the coming congressional races) are not very good predictors of outcomes. Lots can happen till then, and the Democratic incumbants may yet prevail.

  4. Submitted by karl anderson on 10/28/2009 - 01:02 pm.

    This is a perfect example of lies, damn lies and statistics. From the same group of Neander-Con (artists) who said we would be welcomed in Iraq ‘with open arms’. $1.5 trillion (twice the stimulus bill) and 4,300 lives later, the only OPEN ARMS I have seen has been a Journey video on MTV.

    This is a classic example of how Repubs try to win elections.

    The Dems ran the country from the early 1930s until the early 1990s. There are still more Dems than Repubs in this country. The Dems problem is apathy at the voting booth. Repubs know the only way they can win an election is to drive the base. You drive the base with hate and fear. Fox ‘news’, Rush, Glenn Beck (when he isn’t crying), and this commentator have the responsibility of driving fear and hate. This drivers people to the polls for Republicans.

    Repubs see the world in black and white, good vs. evil, GOD COUNTRY FAMILY. No need for details. Perfect for cable tv.

    Dems see the world as more complicated. They are more nuanced, grey. Their positions require thought and GHASP! studying an issue. So it is easy to portray them as aloof, wishy washy. This is not good for cable.

    Repubs keep saying this is a center right country. That Fox ‘ratings explosion’ (if you call 3 million people an explosion) show there is a thirst for conservatism. They are wrong – they have lost the popular vote in every Presidential election since ’92 except 2004. Their base is shrinking, and they will continue to lose elections. Only 20% of the electorate identify themselves as Republican.

    No one wins then. We need a balanced two party system. The Repubs should take another look at Nelson Rockefeller and dump Ronald Reagan.

  5. Submitted by Aaron Klemz on 10/28/2009 - 05:33 pm.

    Honestly, I’ve never seen Republicans celebrate one poll result this much, ever. It must be because there’s such scant real good news for them on the horizon, but then again, it’s all about establishing “momentum” so that if they eke out a win against an underfunded Virginia governor candidate and/or if they somehow survive their internecine warfare strategy in the NY Rep. special election, it will be “the sign.” Oh yes, they’ll still be down 10 seats in the Senate, and dozens in the House, but who cares about that! They’ve got one poll, with a questionably valuable question (political ideology identification questions are pretty well, well, irrelevant) and the possibility of winning two minor races! Must be a trend…

  6. Submitted by Thomas Edman on 10/28/2009 - 07:51 pm.

    Ok, maybe I shouldn’t accuse it of being wrong.

    I’ll actually go so far as accept your arithmetic as equally reasonable.

    What I will protest is the way Bonafield chose to accept the characterization of the results as indicating that conservatives ‘outnumber’ the other guys.

    But a remaining point of discussion: aren’t moderates distinguishing themselves from conservatives in this poll? And isn’t this also significant — which is the point of my arithmetic.

  7. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/29/2009 - 10:34 am.

    Karl Anderson (#4) —

    Actually, they lost in 2004 as well. They stole it in Ohio with the help of Diebold machines (tinkered with by technicians who said they had come to do “maintenance”) and with the help of Ohio’s secretary of state.

    I am very impressed with John Kerry’s ability to understand issues from the point of view of other countries and with his leadership of the Foreign Relations Committee. He would have been a marvelous president had not the right-wing buddies of Cheney and Bush not tampered with the election.

  8. Submitted by jim hughes on 10/29/2009 - 07:38 pm.

    “Family values are the core beliefs that hold up the nuclear family as the essential moral and ethical unit of society,”

    Um, ok. So what are these “beliefs”?

  9. Submitted by Tony George on 10/31/2009 - 11:52 pm.

    Minnesota has become the breeding ground for crazed right-wing politicians Michelle Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. This is the result of Minnesota being the home of the corrupt health insurer United Health and their ex-ceo, William McGuire, who has taken away billions of the dollars all of us intended for our own medical care for his own personal use, which is to support these vicious, right-wingf candidates who do his bidding.

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