Unwinding The SPIN: Warning signs ahead for GOP

danger_aheadUnwindingtheSPINThe 2014 primary election is over, but the vote totals in the primary show clear warning signs for the Republicans in Minnesota. The final vote totals are not in yet for the primary, but it is clear more Democrats voted in the primary than did RepublicansIt is a trend that has continued since precinct caucuses, when 14,585 people attended DFL precinct caucuses on February 4, 2014, a total which beat the turnout at precinct caucuses for Republicans in Minnesota.

Even the turnout at the Republican Party of Minnesota State Convention in Rochester was below expectations and the convention never had a full delegation. This should be a warning sign for Republicans.

Back in February, in my pre-precinct caucus primer, I encouraged people to compare the number of total attendees at precinct caucuses for the DFL and GOP. If the numbers were close, I wrote this could be a sign of malaise amongst Republican activists. Even with multiple candidates not abiding by the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement for statewide offices, Republicans should have more attendees at their precinct caucuses. But they didn’t.

MNGOPimageAt the time of precinct caucuses, the Minnesota DFL has only one contested statewide race, as Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is not seeking re-election. Governor Mark Dayton and U.S. Senator Al Franken faced no opposition within the DFL Party.  There were also 12 Republican statewide campaigns – six for governor and six for the U.S. Senate. Republicans also had contested endorsement races in the 6th, 2nd, and 1st Congressional Districts of Minnesota. The battles between the Republicans candidates for congress and statewide office should have encouraged more participation by Republicans on the night of precinct caucuses than Democrats. But the Minnesota DFL won the night. This should be a warning sign for Republicans.

Yesterday, there were four top candidates for governor and two contested congressional races in the Republican primary. The DFL had just one contested race for state auditor. But once again, more Democrats voted than Republicans. More Republicans should have voted in yesterday’s primary and the lack of enthusiasm for Republican candidates should be a warning sign.

For candidates endorsed by the Republican Party of Minnesota, last evening was the worst night in 20 years. Aaron Miller, the Republican endorsed candidate for the 1st Congressional District, lost to Jim Hagedorn. Hagedorn outworked Miller and he was also helped by the Republican Party of Minnesota sending out an erroneous sample ballot which did not include Miller’s name. The loss by Miller was the most-high profile loss of an endorsed Republican candidate since Allen Quist was defeated by Governor Arne Carlson in 1994.Also Bruce Mackenthun, the Republican endorsed candidate in House District 55A, lost to Bob Loonen

McFaddenHeadshotFor Republicans, the biggest winner last evening was Mike McFadden, the endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate. McFadden’s campaign had a separate operation from the Republican Party of Minnesota for the primary. As noted in a memorandum from McFadden’s campaign this morning, their operation outperformed the GOTV effort from the Republican Party of Minnesota:

Throughout June, July and early August, our team was meeting or exceeding the number of daily voter contacts made by the Republican Party of Minnesota’s Victory Program. These two efforts, which are scalable for the general election, helped Mike get over 70% of the vote in last night’s primary – a greater share of the vote than Al Franken received in his 2008 primary against a political unknown.

Jeff Johnson, the Republican endorsed candidate for governor won the primary, but only with 30 percent of the vote. In a competitive GOP primary for governor, Johnson received only 55,875 votes. For comparison, in a competitive DFL primary for JeffJohnsonHeadshotgovernor in 2010, Dayton received 182,738 votes. 7 out of 10 Republicans voted against the Republican endorsed candidate governor. This should be a warning sign for Republicans.

To be successful in November, Johnson’s campaign needs to recalibrate their operations and adopt a similar GOTV model used by McFadden’s campaign. Johnson faced tougher competition in his primary than did McFadden, but there are lessons to be learned from McFadden’s campaign.

But for Keith Downey and Civis Communications, yesterday was anything but a success.  Bob Cummins and his company, Civis Communications, were big supporters of Sheila Kihne, who challenged Loon over her vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Kihne was soundly defeated by Loon, who received over 60 percent of the vote. Yesterday was test for both Downey and Civis Communications and neither received passing grades.

Please check back to politics.mn for additional analysis and information on the 2014 elections.

Unwinding the SPIN is a section of politics.mn which translates the spin and messaging in Minnesota politics.


  1. Michael, I agree with much of your analysis. I have been an advocate for primaries over the past decade or so. We have seen fewer and fewer Republicans attend precinct caucuses over the years and what’s happened is that our candidates have suffered as a result. Primaries test candidates and their ability to appeal to the voters at large instead of a few dozen or even a few hundred people who show up at a convention. Let’s move the primary up to at least June (if not earlier) and get voters really engaged in our candidates and our party.

  2. Every time I read PoliticsMn, I feel like I’m reading that left-wing blog MinnPost. Get over it Michael. Your firing was more than justified.

  3. Richard Simones says:

    How does it look after taking the city of Minneapolis out, though? That Kahn race was hotly contested, and pretty messy? I think that’d even it a bit.

  4. Pingback: Six Of One… | Shot in the Dark

  5. Tea Party Potentate says:

    Jeff Johnson will do as well as a potted plant against Dayton, just like the potted plant numbers he got when he ran for AG.

    It almost seems like Dayton’s people set this up so Johnson would be their opponent. A patsy. I wonder what they are paying him?

  6. another statistic from primary night: perennial candidate Sharon Anderson, who did virtually no campaigning, received 5000 more votes than did Jeff Johnson

  7. Bob. You will never be as skilled as Michael. And you certainly would not have the balls or skills to do what Michael has done over the last few years. If I were Jeff Johnson or Mike MacFadden I would put Michael on the payroll in a New York second. Bob, you are, I imagine, by and large, a fucker. What campaign are you affiliated with, Bob?

  8. I believe that Mr. Johnson is very electable. I think Mr. McFadden needs some coaching. Competition creates a better product.

  9. Don’t assume that everyone who voted in the Republican primary is a Republican. With no seriously contested important Democratic primaries to vote in, a Democrat could easily have decided that the best use of his ballot was to help the Republican gubernatorial candidate he deemed least likely to defeat Dayton.

  10. Gene – to belie your concerns… there might have been some sense of that if Matt Entenza had not challenged Rebecca Otto for State Auditor, post-Convention, after not having expressed any intent to primary her until the last hour of filing. This created a very palpable vile within the DFL electorate. House parties, phone banks, door-knocks were mounted on behalf of State Auditor Otto. Mailings featuring the party’s endorsed candidates prominently featured her face next to Governor Dayton’s. On election night, DFLers turned out very solidly – narrowly more DFL voters than Republican voters came out, despite the several important primary contests among Republicans. Otto crushed Entenza after that massive effort and focus on her campaign. Compare that with the Steve Simon campaign for Secretary of State, which faced two little-known contenders, but got next to no attention and focus prior to the primary. Simon won a plurality, and while he will get lots of DFL support and attention vs. Dan Severson, the votes in his primary were more scattered. I’m sure a few DFLers voted Republican – and probably vice-versa – but it couldn’t have been on any wide scale due to the one intense internal battle the party faced in the primary.

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