Knoblach Not Seeking Reelection

Rep Jim Knoblach (R-14N St Cloud) announced today he is withdrawing from his candidacy for reelection citing an MPR story in which his daughter Laura alleges an abusive relationship since the age of nine. For the record Checks & Balances is the first media resource to call attention to this issue we published Rep Jim Knoblach Facing Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Daughter on January 04, 2017. We followed up later with Corroborating Information on the Knoblach Story January 18, 2018.

This legislative seat has seen the highest campaign expenditures in the last two elections. This means, barring any significant effort by the Republican Party through court action, it appears Dan Wolgamott (DFL-St Cloud) will be unopposed.

Today, the MPR two stories by Nina Moini and Briana Bierschbach are MN Rep. Jim Knoblach ends campaign ahead of MPR abuse allegations story and  Minnesota state Rep. Jim Knoblach drops re-election bid, citing MPR News investigation.

Disaggregating Statewide Polls

When viewing all political races in Minnesota we have a Checks & Balances Rule of Thumb, the DFL base is 43% and the Republican base is 37% with 20% Independent/Undecided. In each contest, we analyze we measure each candidacy thus. This means if a candidate falls below the baseline there are showing weak performance, or if the exceed then it is a strong performance. The ability to appeal to an amount higher than their respective party’ baseline, is often easier when there isn’t a viable third-party candidate in the race.

The KSTP/Survey USA Poll and the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll are far different creatures. and we place more stock in one than the other. This is not our first challenge to the KSTP/Survey USA Poll. In 2016, we did the same, we questioned the validity of the poll because of its small sample size and lack of expression of its scientific methodology. Unlike the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, which through American Public Media Research Lab, expresses the entirety of the poll.

Our criticism resulted in KSTP’s Tom Hauser questioning our understanding of polling, and we are quite confident we understand polling. As has been often the case, critics of KSTP decry it as the “conservative” station, our equivalent to Fox News, in spite of there also being Fox affiliate present in this market. Frankly, the questions often asked in polls done by media are intended provide information for news stories and ask we can see in both the KSTP/Survey USA Poll and the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll each has generated a number of stories from one poll by each entity.

The sharpest criticism of the KSTP/Survey USA Poll is again its small sample size 574 respondents of likely voters compared to 800 in the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. But we are not clear what the true numbers are in the KSTP/Survey USA Poll it was first reported as 574 respondents, but there also is a story on the same Poll saying, 587 voters. The definition of “likely” is normally determined by a screening question, like, “Do you intend on voting in the November election?” When the question elicits an affirmative response then the questioner proceeds to ask the additional questions. Now, the human effect can have influence, because while a person may make a response to an automated poll, which may not be completely true, people are less inclined to misrepresent themselves to a live caller. It is generally human nature to offer up the truth when asked rather than lie unless the person is pathological.

Everyone in politics knows a poll is only valuable when you can see the crosstabs. The MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll provides them, but the KSTP/Survey USA Poll does not. So, the method of how the questions were asked in the KSTP/Survey USA Poll has not been fully explained nor have the type of device the respondents used. In this day of cell phones, the question of how were the respondents contacted.  If it was strictly through landlines, then likely the respondents were older, because it is mainly older people who still have landlines. If it is a broader distribution with a balance between cell phones and landlines, then it was a far costlier poll, because those lists are more expensive rather than just a list from the Secretary of State’s Office, which may also be why only 457 people were contacted. Unlike the KSTP/Survey USA Poll, the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll does provide a breakdown of the different devices. There were 800 total calls with 483 to landlines and 317 to cell phones. Now we wonder what the results would have show if only the 483 landline calls were viewed.

The issue over the sample size is also important because of the margin of error. The purpose of a poll is to determine by random sample how closely a smaller group aligns with the larger population. In the KSTP/Survey USA Poll because of the small sample size, it is +/-4.5%. This means every response can have a swing of up to 9-points, this is a very large differential, is important when determining confidence in the poll result.  Comparatively, the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll margin of error is +/- 3.5% which is a significantly better confidence figure.

Viewing US Senate Race, the Klobuchar Seat

One of the easiest political predictions is to make this election is to pick US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) for reelection. As is seen in the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, and lacking a KSTP/Survey USA Poll for comparison, Klobuchar leads Rep Jim Newberger (R-15B, Becker) 60% to 30% with only 6% undecided.    

The likelihood of Klobuchar’s 30-point projected margin over holding through the election is strong and will cast Newberger onto the Republican political funeral pile along with names like Mark Kennedy, Kurt BillsTim Pawlenty and Michelle Fischbach.

Klobuchar has consistently performed higher than other candidates on the ballot. In her first statewide run in 2006, she defeated Congressman Mark Kennedy (R-MN) by over 20-points; 58.06% to 37.94%. In her first re-election bid, she smoked Kurt Bills (R-MN) by nearly 35-points; 65.23% to 34.70%. Over the course of time, her profile has continued to elevate. As a possible Presidential candidate and a member of both the Senate Judiciary and the Agricultural Committees, her name is featured whenever a Judicial nominee is discussed or the Farm Bill receives attention.

Klobuchar far exceeds the Checks & Balances Rule of Thumb.

Her race will appear first on the ballot and the number of voters casting ballots in her favor has a potential coattail effect for all other DFLers in down-ballot races. In spite of voices to the contrary, fewer voters split their tickets here in Minnesota rather than elsewhere in the nation. But as is most often the case, in spite of it not happening in the DFL Primary Election, more DFLers voted for Governor than did for either US Senate race, voter’s general cast more votes for the first race on the ballot than they do in the subsequent races. There traditional is a ballot fall-off, but in the era of Donald Trump, we anticipate a lower amount of fall-off this election for the top four races on the ballot, US Senate, US Senate Special Election, Congress, and Governor. We do anticipate there will be a noticeable drop in the total votes cast in the Attorney General’s race.

Observing the US Senate Special Election

The US Senate Special Election will be the second race on the ballot and will receive a great deal of attention.

The MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll also has provided a glimpse into the race between appointed US Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and State Sen Karin Housley (R-39, St Mary’s Point). Smith leads with 44%, Housley 37% with 15% Undecided. The higher Undecided number likely means the electorate is still learning about the candidates and if the total block were to move toward one candidate the race would be over, but Undecideds general cut the same way as the Decideds do and this means the race is likely going to come in 52% Smith and Housley 42% with 2% for the minor party candidate.

Right now, Smith is showing the strength of the DFL base vote and is in line with the Checks & Balances Rule of Thumb and other factors may come into play. With 49 days left and the constant possibility of an October surprise in an election, much can happen. If the race comes down to issues associated with Donald J Trump, Smith should easily prevail.

Smith is right in line with the Checks & Balances Rule of Thumb.

Taking a Gander at the Governor’s Race

We will state again as we have before Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has run for statewide of twice before and never received greater than 44.51%, we expect a similar result and it may be even lower.

The MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has the race between Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN01) and Johnson with a 9-point margin, Walz 45% and Johnson 36% with 16% Undecided. The KSTP/Survey USA has Walz in the lead by 7-points with 47% to Johnson’s 40% and 10% Undecided. If the Undecideds cut in the same fashion the race would be Walz winning with +52% Johnson’s 45% and 2% for the minor party candidates.

Currently, Walz is exceeding the Checks & Balances Rule of Thumb and we expect the final figure will be a comfortable 5-7 margin.

Here are the crosstabs for the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll

Here is the KSTP News Story on the Governor’s race.

Attorney General and the Big Unasked Questions

We have said time-after-time this election will be largely based on support/opposition to Donald J Trump and this will be most evident in the Attorney General’s race. We are hearing reports from homes of traditional DFLers that women are having problems voting for Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN05) because of the allegations of abuse. This issue has seen some attention in the KSTP/Survey USA Poll but the resulting a 41%/41% virtual tie between Ellison and former House Member Doug Wardlow (R-MN) with 14% Undecided. Correspondingly, the MPR News and Star Tribune Minnesota Poll also show Ellison at 41%, Wardlow 36% and 18% Undecided.

We are expecting there will be fall off in this race, which will be evident when the number of the following races for Secretary of State and State Auditor are tabulated. We think this race will come down to Party Tribalism. The hard and fast partisans will stick with there party’s nominee and others who don’t vote will just reduce the overall total.

We compare the Ellison race with Al Franken’s first election. The race resulting in a recount occurred because Franken had alienated suburban women with his satirical writing in Playboy magazine which talked about raping Attorney General Janet Reno and became political fodder for the US Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) Campaign.

The Big Unasked Questions

 The Big Unasked Question is actually more than one, but interrelated. The question that should be asked of each side is related to Donald J Trump. “Do you feel the allegations against Keith Ellison make him unfit for office?” And in turn, “Do you feel the allegations again Donald Trump make him unfit for office?” Finally, “Do you feel the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh make him unfit for office?”

These questions then need to be broken out by party identification and we believe we will likely see the existence of political party tribalism because Democrats will largely side with Ellison because he’s our guy and Republicans will largely side with Trump and Kavanaugh because they’re our guys. The real question is where the Independents come down and that will be an insightful piece of information.

Seeking Election Information in 2018 From Past Races

As pundits and prognosticators try to read the tea leaves prior to an election, they call attention to the enthusiasm surrounding a particular political party. Right now nationally, the Democratic Party seems to have the wind at its back and the Republicans appear to be experiencing a headwind of hurricane proportions.

One thing is clear, each election is unique and each race in an election may have its own independent factors. We have taken a look back at contested Primary Elections to see if there are any indicators that will show possible turnout, or if party support in the Primary shows any correlation to party strength in the General Election. Over the last decade, one doesn’t seem to direct the other. In 2008, the DFL Primary turnout far outpaced the Republican and the General Election resulted in a recount with Al Franken (DFL) winning 215 votes. The following statewide election in 2010, also resulted in a recount, because the margin of victory for Mark Dayton (DFL) by less than .05%, thereby invoking an automatic recount, where he prevailed with more than 9,000 votes.

In each Primary contest, we reviewed the DFL turnout was, always better than 2-1 approaching 3-1 unless as in 2014, except in 2014 when both DFL candidates Franken and Dayton were incumbents.

Contested races for open seats provide the only opportunity for Republicans to capture a statewide office, which they have been denied since Tim Pawlenty’s reelection in 2006.

If our elections are merely an extension of base plus voting, meaning the base of a particular political party, the rock-ribbed diehard voter who will always vote for their party’s candidates no matter who that candidate is forms the base vote or the foundation for the party. One additional factor, we believe, worth considering, is the larger the number of voters in a Primary Election the closer those voters come to the what will occur in the General Election.


Primary Election
Year # Registered Voters (7 AM) Total Votes % of Registered Voters Voting Party Total Votes/Party % of Vote Winning Candidate Total % of Party Vote Notes
2008 3,119,505
US Senate 405,975 13.38%
DFL 251205 61.88% Al Franken 164,136 65.34%
Republican 143429 35.33% Norm Coleman 130,973 91.32% Incumbent
Independence 11341 2.79% Dean Barkley 6,678 58.88%
2010 3,111,619
Governor 590,259 18.97% Open Seat
DFL 442137 74.91% Mark Dayton 182,738 41.33%
Republican 130,408 22.09% Tom Emmer 107,558 82.48%
Independence 17,714 3.00% Tom Horner 11,380 64.24%
2014 3,111,497
US Senate 380,345 12.22%
DFL 193,347 50.83% Al Franken 182720 94.50% Incumbent
Republican 180,662 47.50% Mike McFadden 129601 71.74%
Independence 6,336 1.67% Steve Carlson 2148 33.90%
Governor 381,391 12.26%
DFL 191,259 50.15% Mark Dayton 177,849 92.99% Incumbent
Republican 184,310 48.33% Jeff Johnson 55,836 30.29%
Independence 5,822 1.53% Hannah Nicollet 5,822 100.00%
2018 3,258,293
US Senate 872307 26.77%
DFL 582350 66.76% Amy Klobuchar 557306 95.70% Incumbent
Republican 289,957 33.24% Jim Newberger 201531 69.50%
US Senate (Special)
871,051 26.73% DFL 570,190 65.46% Tina Smith 433705 76.06% Appointee
Republican 300,861 34.54% Karin Housley 186384 61.95%
Governor 903264 27.72% Open Seat
DFL 582350 64.47% Tim Walz 242832 41.70%
Republican 320914 35.47% Jeff Johnson 168841 52.61%
Attorney General  723,447 22.20% Open Seat
DFL 564,374 78.01% Keith Ellison 281142 49.81%
Republican 159,073 21.99% Doug Wardlow 135971 85.48%
General Election
Year # Registered Voters (7 AM) Total Votes % of Registered Voters Voting Party Candidate(s) Votes % of the Vote Winning Candidate Notes
2008 3,199,981
US Senate 2,887,377 76.56% Franken Recount
DFL Al Franken 1,212,431 41.99%
Republican Norm Coleman 1,212,206 41.98%
Independence Dean Barkley 437,505 15.15%
2010 3,128,795 2,107,021 67.34%
Governor Dayton
DFL Mark Dayton 919,232 43.63%
Republican Tom Emmer 910,462 43.21%
Independence Tom Horner 251,487 11.94%
2014 3,137,949
US Senate 1,981,528 63.15% Franken
DFL Al Franken 1,053,205 53.15%
Republican Mike McFadden 850,227 42.91%
Independence Steve Carlson 47,530 2.40%
Governor 1975406 62.95% Dayton
DFL Mark Dayton 989113 50.07%
Republican Jeff Johnson 879257 44.51%
2018 ??? Independence Hannah Nicollet 56900 2.88%
US Senate ??? ??? ???
DFL Amy Klobuchar
Republican Jim Newberger
US Senate (Special) ??? ??? ???
DFL Tina Smith
Republican Karin Housley
Governor ??? ??? ???
DFL Tim Walz
Republican Jeff Johnson
Attorney General  ??? ??? ???
DFL Keith Ellison
Republican Doug Wardlow

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See How Different Groups That Follow Congress Score the MN Congressional Delegation

As the bevy of campaign commercials begin to churn, we thought it would be of interest to our readership to see the scores each member of the Congressional Delegation has received prior to this election.  The primary driver of this idea was an interesting statement made in the most recent campaign commercial by Congressman Jason  Lewis (R-MN02). He claims that recent reports about him have been “taken out of context,” and “they” are “telling you I am extreme.” Now anyone who ever listened to Lewis radio program knows he was a bombastic, self-promoting, right-wing red meat thrower. Now, he wants people to forget his past and see him is a far different light, as the new and improved Jason Lewis. Who works across the aisle to get things done. The reason the expression hogwash exists is that the best way to sell a pig is to give it a bath so that the buyer will believe it is not something that rolls around in the mud, its own feces and slop.

We have tried to find data that offers a varied cross-section of issues we feel voters in Minnesota are concerned with from the most important this election, whether the member voted with Donald J Trump or not to the amount of bipartisanship shown, which is one of Lewis’ claims that falls far short. On to the environment, business, organized labor, NRA rating and also Planned Parenthood. We included the two members of Congress Congressmen Tim Walz (D-MN01 and Keith Ellison (D-MN05) because they are running for statewide office. We are still awaiting the NRA rating we have learned this information will not be available until October..

US Senate 538 Voting with Trump In MN Delegation Lugar Center Bipartisanship 2017 Overall Rating In MN Delegation
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 30.3% 1st 0.51616 29th of 100 1st
Tina Smith (D-MN) 26.3% 2nd * * *
* Was not in office during the scoring
US House 538 Voting with Trump In MN Delegation Lugar Center Bipartisanship 2017 Overall Rating In MN Delegation
Tim Walz (D-MN01) 20.5% 5th 0.68464 58th of 435 3rd
Betty McCollum (D-MN04) 15.9% 6th -1.38339 421st of 435 7th
Keith Ellison (D-MN05) 8.8% 7th -1.23694 406th of 435 6th
Collin Peterson (D-MN07) 67.4% 4th 2.0859 1st of 435 1st
Jason Lewis (R-MN02) 90.8% 2nd -0.21758 192nd of 435 4th
Erik Paulsen (R-MN03) 97.8% 1st 0.7177 53rd of 435 2nd
Tom Emmer (R-MN06) 88.6% 3rd -0.51985 263rd of 435 5th
US Senate ACLU In MN Delegation AFL-CIO Lifetime In MN Delegation League of Conservation Voters In MN Delegation
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 64% 2nd 95% 1st 95% 1st
Tina Smith (D-MN) 67% 1st * * *
* Was not in office during the scoring
US House ACLU In MN Delegation AFL-CIO Lifetime In MN Delegation League of Conservation Voters In MN Delegation
Tim Walz (D-MN01) 92% 1st 93% 3rd 83% 3rd
Betty McCollum (D-MN04) 86% 3rd 96% 2nd 93% 2nd
Keith Ellison (D-MN05) 89% 2nd 98% 1st 94% 1st
Collin Peterson (D-MN07) 42% 4th 73% 4th 32% 4th
Jason Lewis (R-MN02) 25% 5th 18% 6th 0% 7th
Erik Paulsen (R-MN03) 7% 7th 10% 7th 16% 5th
Tom Emmer (R-MN06) 18% 6th 20% 5th 1% 6th
US Senate Planned Parenthood Action Fund In MN Delegation US Chamber of Commerce In MN Delegation
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 100% Tied for 1st 44% 1st
Tina Smith (D-MN) 100% Tied for 1st * *
* Was not in office during the scoring
US House Planned Parenthood Action Fund In MN Delegation US Chamber of Commerce In MN Delegation
Tim Walz (D-MN01) 100% Tied for 1st 50% 3rd
Betty McCollum (D-MN04) 100% Tied for 1st 36% 4th
Keith Ellison (D-MN05) 100% Tied for 1st 37% 5th
Collin Peterson (D-MN07) 11% 2nd 68% 2nd
Jason Lewis (R-MN02) 0% Tied for last 26% 6th
Erik Paulsen (R-MN03) 0% Tied for last 91% Tied for 1st
Tom Emmer (R-MN06) 0% Tied for last 91% Tied for 1st


Questions for Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Johnson

We had the opportunity to ask Hennepin County Commission Jeff Johnson (R-MN) how he planned to beat recent history, his own and every other Republican statewide candidate. As we have pointed out time after time no Republican has won statewide since 2006.

C&B: A Republican hasn’t won statewide office with greater than 47%, that goes back to Tim Pawlenty in 2006, in 2014 you had 44.51% what are you going to do this time that’s actually going to show you can deliver a majority?

Jeff Johnson: “Well, there’s a couple of things. Number one, we don’t have a third-party candidate, an Independence Party candidate that’s a former Republican, we did that four years ago, so that was four points right there, and we don’t have an Independence Party candidate at all. So, one of us is probably going to get right around 50% or just over 50%. The two Independence Party candidates are minor party candidates, the other big difference is there’s no incumbent this time, it’s completely different. And I can tell you, it’s completely different. I spent 12 days at the fair in 2014, and I will spend 12 days at the fair in 2018, the attitude of voters this year is night and day from four years ago. I had an awful lot of people four years ago come up to me and say, Jeff I really like you, I like what you have to say, but things seem okay right now in Minnesota why should we change horses in midstream. I’ll think about it, but I m not sure. I’m not hearing that from anybody right now we’ve got Democrats who are coming up to the table, lots of union workers, private sector union workers who coming up to the table and saying we’ve got to doing something different, it is time. So, I think there’s an attitude right now and an expectation that’s dramatically different from four years ago.

We pressed our point with the following question.

C&B: Alright, two years ago, Donald Trump got 44.91% of the vote, so there’s not been a Republican carried the state here in Minnesota in over twenty year, really, how do you think it’s going to be you?

Jeff Johnson: Because I think the people are looking for something different then what they have been looking for in a long time. I feel it out here. I hear it out hear. I have been here a lot, and I have been here a lot in the past. The energy out there for real change and I represent change and Tim (Walz) represents a third-term for Dayton is pretty dramatic.

One key point we would like to raise that makes Johnson’s answer interesting is in 2014 third-party votes totaled 5.38% the margin between Dayton and Johnson was 5.56%, so the third-party impact was not enough to change the result and lack of any viable third-party candidates this election. Johnson is right the winner will likely exceed 50% and past history shows it is not likely to be a Republican.

Here is the audio, be warned the interview starts at the 36th second.


NPR Censors Opposition Comments on RCV

The NPR show 1A ran a program on Ranked Choice Voting today, and Checks & Balances Publisher Shawn Towle sought a spot on the panel. When called back by producer Andi McDaniel he was informed the panel was full but could submit a comment through the voicemail which...

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