Yesterday, the MN Government Relations Council, the lobbyists state association, held a forum entitled “Before the Ballot Box.” The panel discussion featured: Mike Campbell, Senate GOP; Ben Golnik, House GOP; Alyssa Siems Roberson, Senate DFL and Zach Rodvold, House DFL.
During the discussion the panelists fielded question from the moderator and lobbyists. The topics ranging from the effect of early voting on this election to the effect of Donald Trump (R) on legislative races.
It was clear from the beginning of the discussion, these campaign insiders would be giving only a slight amount of information away, no real true insight, and merely enough to whet the appetite. During his time talking about the election, Golnik focused on the eleven seats his caucus picked up in 2014. Note, the 2014 election had the lowest results in the last 50 years at 50.51% of the eligible voters statewide. He referenced the concept of playing offense and defense. The defensive position being the protection of the 2014 Freshmen and retention of the various open seats.
The bulk of the Republican House strategy is based on a belief that any seat won by 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R), should be a GOP seat. To that end Golnik discussed the possible pick-up of Reps. Paul Marquart (DFL-04B, Dillworth) and John Persell (DFL-05A, Bemidji) and the open seat of retiring member Kim Norton (DFL-25A, Rochester). At the end he believed the majority would stay in Republican hands, and hoped for a 70-71 vote majority.
Of course his counterpart Rodvold sees things quite differently. He too focused on the 2014 losses and also expanded the scope to include additional suburban races, which were not specifically mentioned. He highlighted the fact, of the low turnout in 2014 and accounted for the differential of being in the minority and the majority at 7,600 votes across the state.
On the Senate side, Roberson emphasized her caucuses strength in recruiting candidates well suited for their districts and discussed how this will help her caucus retain the seats of the various retiring senators and provide opportunities for some new DFL senators in districts not held for a number of years.
The one person on the panel who truly seemed to be living in a fantasy world was Campbell. Who in all seriousness, actually tried to give credence to the Senate changing hands and returning to the GOP column. This is ludicrous on its face, and the only reason it happened in 2010, the first time since the establishment of partisan races, was because again the turnout that election year was abysmally low at 55.83%. He talked about pick-ups in some Greater Minnesota seats and they are targeting the open seat in SD 01, Sens. Kent Eken (DFL-04, Twin Lakes), John Hoffman (DFL-36, Brooklyn Park) and Greg Clausen (DFL- 57, Apple Valley). Hoffman and Clausen are both being targeted by local mayors and Campbell put significant stake in this concept.
Again, this strategy seems borrow from the House GOP, focusing on districts where Romney won, except President Barack Obama (D) carried both Brooklyn Park and Apple Valley.
Now, as the election grows closer and Donald Trump continues to implode turnout becomes a more impactful issue. Republicans seem to be relying on and equal distain for Trump and Hillary Clinton (D). To the point they envision a low turnout universally, we disagree.
For the Democrats the prime motivator may not be to vote for Clinton, but rather to vote against Trump. His erratic, offensive, lecherous behavior is not emblematical of a true national leader. He is a punchline of a joke, his is an embarrassment all around, and his campaign will have trouble expanding its voting base from beyond uneducated, angry white males.
For the record the statewide turnout of eligible voters in 2008 was 78.11% and 76.42% in 2012.