Editorial: It’s uphill for GOP in Minnesota
The Minnesota Republican Party patted itself on the back when the endorsed candidate for governor won the Aug. 12 primary. The self-congratulations were not entirely justified.
A win is a win, and Jeff Johnson will take on popular DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in the campaign leading up to the November election. But if voter enthusiasm is as important as analysts say it is, Johnson confronts a formidable challenge merely energizing Republicans.
The primary was far and away a Republican show. The four-way tilt to determine which Republican would face Dayton was the only race that was supposed to stir Republican voter interest. DFL voters came out in far greater numbers than registered Republican voters. So when less than 10 percent of all registered voters bothered to vote – and most of them were Democrats when the marque race was to anoint a Republican governor candidate – the problem is obvious. GOP enthusiasm – what pollsters call the intensity factor – was absent.
It could be the primary malaise was a reflection of several Republican missteps. A couple of years ago, the party had to deal with internal fiscal mismanagement that resulted in an embarrassing housecleaning. It also might be that fatigue set in with Gov. Tim Pawlenty. After winning control of the Legislature, Republicans squandered opportunities for long-term majority status. In short order, the DFL won back both houses, and in a historic concentration of political power, owned the governor’s office as well.
Finally, Minnesotans elected, in Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, two of the most liberal Democrats in the nation.
A lot could happen between now and November. To be sure, Jeff Johnson will run a vigorous campaign against Dayton. Enthusiasm and intensity, however, will make or break GOP campaigns. Recent political history and the primary suggest those factors are in short supply.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead