I don’t think I’ve ever I’ve seen an election cycle in Minnesota where so many pundits are confident on some races, while also shrugging their shoulders with a dazed look on their faces about the down ballot races. You don’t have to be a political scientist to predict Tuesday’s election will be based on turnout. But because of a blow-out U.S. Senate race and two controversial constitutional amendments appearing on the ballot, election night will be an unpredictable night for control of the Minnesota Legislature. I’ve talked with GOP and DFL operatives and below are my predictions for Election Day.
President Barack Obama (D) vs. Mitt Romney (GOP) – Winner: President Obama will win Minnesota. My prediction is President Obama will win Minnesota by more than 5 points, but less than 8 points. I also believe President Obama will win re-election, by collecting 280 to 310 Electoral Votes.
As I noted yesterday, Minnesota presented a real opportunity for the Romney campaign and resources should have been spent here weeks ago. But Romney’s campaign has not put the substantive resources needed into Minnesota to make the race more competitive and Ryan’s vanity stop yesterday won’t put Minnesota in the win column for Romney. Estimates put today’s attendance at Ryan’s rally at close to 10,000 people – a wonderful turnout for Congressman Ryan.
But there isn’t a strong Romney organizational structure in place in Minnesota to put the thousands of volunteers that attended Ryan’s rally to work in the final hours of the campaign. In fact, many volunteers left phone banks and stopped dropping lit for local candidates to stand in an airport hangar to cheer for a candidate who’s likely not going to win Minnesota. Romney’s campaign should have allocated resources to Minnesota after the first presidential debate, as Minnesota presented a real opportunity for the Romney campaign and resources should have been spent here weeks ago.
I see no changes in the partisan composition in Minnesota congressional delegations. In summary, Republicans missed a golden opportunity in the 1st Congressional District by nominating Allen Quist to be the Republican nominee against Congressman Walz. I was a volunteer advisor for a short time in 2011 to State Senator Mike Parry’s campaign for Congress. But Quist won the Republican Primary and as I noted in my post-primary analysis, Quist will be unable to break his general election losing streak of 26 years. Congressman Walz will be re-elected next Tuesday.
Likewise, Congressman Cravaack won a major upset in 2010 and was the most vulnerable incumbent member of Congress in Minnesota. But by endorsing former Congressman Rick Nolan, which led to a divisive DFL Primary Election, Democrats failed to rally behind one candidate. Cravaack’s campaign has exposed the fissures in the DFL front and have picked off some of the key supporters of the DFL candidates who didn’t win the primary against Nolan. Cravaack has secured key endorsements from unions and has organized a strong campaign, which clearly was an upheld battle. The fact that this race is one of the most expensive in the country (nearly $10 million from outside groups) speaks volumes to Cravaack’s candidacy. I believe Congress Cravaack will win a close election on Tuesday, but because of the demographics of his district, the 8th CD will continue to be a swing district for the next 10 years.
Regarding the U.S. Senate, next Tuesday will be a crippling defeat for the Representative Bills. Recent polling shows Bills with trailing Klobuchar by 31 points. There is really danger facing Republican legislative candidates; Obama’s margin of victory and a strong win by Klobuchar over Bills will impact legislative races. Please click here for my previous comments on the damaging effects of the Bills campaign on future Republican campaigns in Minnesota.
Below are my predictions in all of the congressional races in Minnesota.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL) vs. Representative Kurt Bills – Winner: Senator Amy Klobuchar
1st Congressional District – Congressman Tim Walz (DFL) vs. Allen Quist (GOP) – Winner: Congressman Walz
2nd Congressional District – Congressman John Kline (GOP) vs. Mike Obermuller (DFL) – Winner: Congressman John Kline
3rd Congressional District – Congressman Erik Paulsen (GOP) vs. Brian Barnes (DFL) – Winner: Congressman Erik Paulsen
4th Congressional District – Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL) vs. Tony Hernandez (GOP) – Winner: Congresswoman Betty McCollum
5th Congressional District – Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL) vs. Chris Fields (GOP) – Winner: Congressman Keith Ellison
6th Congressional District – Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (GOP) vs. Jim Graves – Winner: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
7th Congressional District – Congressman Collin Peterson (DFL) vs. Lee Byberg – Winner: Congressman Collin Peterson
8th Congressional District – Congressman Chip Cravaack (GOP) vs. Rick Nolan – Winner: Congressman Chip Cravaack
In 2010, Republicans made historic gains in the Minnesota Legislature. Currently, Republicans control 37 seats in the Minnesota Senate and 72 seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives – a total of 109 Republican seats. It is unlikely Republicans will retain the same number of seats in the Minnesota Legislature. I believe Republicans will lose 8-11 seats in the Minnesota Legislature. President Obama will win by a comfortable margin and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar will win re-election by 22-30 points. This will have an impact on the down ballot races, including campaigns for the Minnesota Legislature. It’s not a matter of if Republicans will lose seats in the Minnesota Legislature, it’s just a matter of how many.
All 201 seats in the Minnesota Legislature are up for re-election this year and due to the new redistricting maps, there are also 8 open senate districts. The current partisan breakdown of the Minnesota Senate is 37 seats for the GOP, 30 seats for the DFL. The Senate DFL Caucus needs to pick-up 4 seats currently held by the GOP to win control of the Minnesota Senate. But the new redistricting map released on February 21, 2012 by the Minnesota Supreme Court Redistricting Panel favors the Senate GOP Caucus over the Senate DFL Caucus because of population shifts in the last decade. I also believe the biggest winners in the new redistricting maps are the Senate Republican Caucus. “Properly managed”, the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus should retain majority status in the Minnesota Senate. I believe Senator Senjem’s race will be close, but he will win, as I heard reports of him working very hard in the closing weeks. While I was the first pundit to note back in September that the race in Senate District 48 between Senator David Hann and Laurie McKendry should be watched, I believe Senator David Hann ekes out a small victory on Tuesday. Also, I continue to hear Senator John Carlson has really stepped up in the last weeks and the MN SRC feels confident he will win on Tuesday.
But here are the reasons why the Minnesota Senate has the strong potential to flip on Election Day.
Fundraising: The Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus (MN SRC) has raised the least amount of money out of the four caucuses at the Minnesota Legislature. To date, the MN SRC has raised $864,043.00, while the DFL Senate Caucus has raised $2,754,686.88. The financial disparity between the two caucuses is unprecedented and it gives the DFL Senate Caucus a huge financial advantage heading into Election Day and allows the DFL Senate Caucus to participate in more districts than the MN SRC.
Campaign Management: The MN SRC divided the election responsibilities between Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, Senator Michelle Fischbach and Senator David Hann. But both Senator Senjem and Senator Hann have needed to spend more time in their districts campaigning for their own re-election. This has left more of the overall campaign strategy to Senator Fischbach, who just announced her own “campaign schedule” for the final days of the election cycle. Senator Fischbach previously served as the head of elections for the MN SRC in 2008, when Senate Republicans lost three seats in the Minnesota Senate, including one of the most Republican seats in the entire Minnesota Legislature. It should be concerning to Republicans that as of the middle of September, Senator Senjem publicly stated the MN SRC had not established a target list of seats for the upcoming election.
As noted above, “properly managed”, the MN SRC should retain control, but as others have noted, look for the strong possibility of the Minnesota Senate flipping to the DFL on Tuesday. A shining star in the MN SRC campaign operation is Gregg Peppin – if the MN SRC does well on Tuesday evening, it will largely be because of Peppin’s work and his ability to overcome the organization handicaps presented by Fischbach, Hann, Senjem and MN SRC fundraiser Mike Campbell. Below is my updated list of the top Minnesota Senate races to watch, listed by those most likely to flip, Republican candidates first.
Top Senate Races to Watch on Election
Minnesota House of Representatives
The current partisan breakdown of the Minnesota House of Representatives is 72 seats for the GOP, 61 seats for the DFL, with one open-seat. The House DFL Caucus needs to pick-up 6 seats currently held by the GOP to win control of the Minnesota House of Representatives. But in my opinion, the new redistricting map released on February 21, 2012 by the Minnesota Supreme Court Redistricting Panel favors the House DFL Caucus over the House GOP Caucus because of where the court drew the open house districts.
Fundraising:The House Republican Campaign Committee $1,655,445.25 and the DFL House Caucus raised $2,961,721.64. The financial disparity between the two caucuses isn’t as great as the differential between the MN SRC and the DFL Senate Caucus, but it is wide. A large amount of the money “raised” by the DFL House and DFL Senate Caucuses represents transfers between the caucuses and the Minnesota DFL. But money is money, and both GOP caucuses will be outspent by their DFL counterparts this election cycle.
Campaign Management: Below is my updated list of the top house races to watch, listed numerically by house district, Republican candidates first. These races will ultimately decide who controls the Minnesota House of Representatives. Unlike the Minnesota Senate, most politicos agree the campaign oversight of the elections for the House Republican Campaign Committee has been very well managed. I’m not trying to take anything away from the work of the DFL House Caucus or DFL Senate Caucus. But it’s tough to beat incumbents and the new redistricting maps generally favor the GOP. Republicans in the Minnesota Senate had good districts, but the House GOP had better candidates.
If Republican retain control of the Minnesota House of Representatives, I don’t believe anyone could credibly make the claim that Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers and Representative Matt Dean shouldn’t be rewarded with leadership positions for the 2013 Session if they chose to seek re-election. It’s one of the worst kept secrets in Minnesota politics that Speakers Zellers is entertaining a run for governor in 2014. He may chose not to run for re-election, but if the Republicans control the House of Representatives, Zellers should get the gavel again if he wants it.
Top House Races to Watch on Election Day
On-Deck to Watch
The constitutional amendment requiring a government photo ID to vote will PASS. I’ve publicly stated that I will be voting no on the constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman and I believe this amendment will FAIL by a very close margin.
Please leave a comment if you have thoughts or input on the predictions. Please check back to politics.mn for up to the minute analysis on the Election Day.