Monday, August 13, 2012

Minnesota U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Minnesota U.S. Senate

August 13, 2012
85 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

Tomorrow, Minnesotans will go to the polls to formally nominated candidates for their one statewide race this year. Despite facing opposition, freshman Senator Amy Klobuchar, will advance to the general election on behalf of the DFL, and the Republican nominee will have little chance of defeating her. Third party candidates, while sometimes a serious consideration in Minnesota politics, do not appear to be playing a large part in this race.

It did not have to be this way. While Klobuchar would have been a favorite for a second term, there are more than a few Republicans in the state who could have at least given her a good race and a hope for lightning to strike. However, people such as former Senator Norm Coleman declined to seek a return to Washington and the state's former two-term Governor Tim Pawlenty ran instead for President, and when that fizzled out a year ago, he did not take an opportunity to switch to a Senate race, thinking he might have had a chance to be Mitt Romney's eventual running-mate, which we now know did not come to pass. Another Minnesotan, controversial Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had even been anticipated to take on Klobuchar, but she also ran for President, and is now seeking reelection to her House seat, rather than an uphill Senate battle.

As all this developed, a couple lesser known Republicans entered the race, but some insiders activists in the party started to rally behind a politically promising young veteran of the Afghanistan War, Pete Hegseth, who was now heading a veterans organization.

However, months before the primaries are held, the parties in Minnesota endorse candidates at state conventions, and it appears that Hegseth and another contender must have agreed to abide by the result of the convention and not seek a spot on the primary ballot if they were unsuccessful. This turned out badly for them as the Minnesota Republican Convention turnout was dominated by supporters of libertarian Presidential candidate Ron Paul, and the winner of the convention for the Senate seat was Kurt Bills, a High School teacher, and little known freshman State Representative.

As the party's officially endorsed candidate, and with all his Paulbot support, Bills should win tomorrow's primary, which will formally make him the nominee. However, the endorsed candidates have been upset in the past and apparently Bills has had trouble raising bills for his campaign coffers. In such a primary, which has not garnered much attention, the possibility exists he could be upset by another candidate, the most likely of which seems to be David Carlson, an Iraq War veteran, who now runs a security company. Like former candidate Hegseth, and Bills, who is just 42 years old, Carlson is also young, at just 30. His Scandinavian sounding last name probably will not hurt him in the state of Minnesota in a low-profile race and a lot of Republicans may turn to him simply because they cannot abide the Ron Paul affiliation of Bills.

If I were a voter in Minnesota, I do not know what would I have to do tomorrow. Bills looks like a decent enough guy and he has a reasonably nice campaign logo and all that, but the fact that he is a "Ron Paul Republican" is a huge political turnoff for me. I would not want to do anything to further encourage those types to try to take over the GOP in these kinds of races. Carlson does not appear to be that much stronger of a candidate though and in a general election, Bills might probably be able to garner slightly more votes against Klobuchar. I would likely be very tempted to cast a vote for Carlson, even as just a protest. Oh well, whomever emerges in first place tomorrow will have my irrelevant support as a loyal Republican.

Minnesota's last U.S. Senate contest was decided by just a handful of votes, after months and months of a controversial recall process. This year, Klobuchar will have a much easier task as she is likely to win without breaking much of a sweat. That says more about a flawed Minnesota Republican nomination process than about her own political strength.

Carlson campaign link:

2012 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 9 D, 3 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 39 D, 40 R