Saturday, August 30, 2014

Race of the Day- Minnesota Governor

66 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

Persistence seems to be paying off for Democrat Governor Mark Dayton, who is heading down the homestretch of a Gubernatorial reelection bid as at least a slight favorite. This is probably the best position he has ever been in during many campaigns. He will hope to win a majority of the vote for the first time, at least since he was elected State Auditor in 1990. I cannot find the election totals for that race.

The scion of a wealthy business family, Dayton had lost a 1982 Senate bid and a 1998 Gubernatorial primary, before he was able to win a Senate seat in 2000 with a plurality of the vote. In Washington, the liberal Dayton was not exactly seen as a legislative or political heavyweight and he was criticized for "erratic behavior." He declined to seek a second term in the Senate, citing dissatisfaction with Washington. He has since publicly admitted that he is a recovering alcoholic and has been treated for depression in the past.

Not many people gave Dayton too much of a chance when he launched a 2010 bid for Governor. The Democrat convention (formerly the DFL Party, paying homage to the party's long tradition with farmers and labor unions) issued its formal endorsement to another candidate, while Dayton proceeded to focus on the primary, spending heavily from his own wallet. He narrowly defeated the party-endorsed candidate in the primary, and in November, became the first Democrat to be elected Governor since 1986. He defeated his Republican opponent by just about 8,000 votes en route to a 43.6 to 43.2 plurality win.

The Land of 10,000 Lakes, despite its usual liberal bent, had not been accustomed to having Democrats as Governor, and despite some rocky moments, Dayton has seemingly managed to escape many of the political problems that so many other Governors have faced in the past few years. He appears to have won the public relations battle with legislative Republicans over a budget standoff that resulted in a government shutdown. Some on the left were angered by Dayton's opposition to a medical marijuana bill, and he was accused of telling the mother of a sick child to buy the drug illegally instead, which he denied saying.

Under Minnesota's political rules, candidates pick their running-mates for Lt. Governor before the primary, and usually before the party conventions which endorse candidates. The woman who helped Dayton win both the primary and general election in 2010 is not seeking a second term and the Governor then asked Tina Smith, his Chief of Staff, to leave formally leave his Administration and run for Lt. Governor with him. Party activists were seen as mostly happy with the selection, but Republicans claimed the ticket was too Minneapolis based for the rest of the state.

Despite Dayton moving into an advantage in seeking a second term, several Republicans lined up to try to take on the Governor who barely won the time before. At the end of May, Republican delegates selected Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson for their Gubernatorial endorsement. Johnson had previously served in the State House, before losing a bid for Attorney General, and also sits on the Republican National Committee. After his endorsement, just one of his party rivals for the job ended their campaign though and endorsed him. Perhaps somewhat mindful of Dayton's primary victory in 2010, the other candidates, along with their individual running-mates, decided to remain in and take their chances in an August primary.

The party-endorsed Johnson was able to win that contest though, albeit among tough competition, as he captured just 30 percent of the vote. Three other candidates were bunched up very close together behind him. State Representative and former Speaker Kurt Zellers, former State House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, who had also run in 2010, and venture capitalist Scott Honour, who ran as an outsider, quickly came together after the primary thought to pledge support to Johnson. The running-mate of the Republican nominee is Bill Kuisle, a former State Representative, who seems to have been picked by Johnson more for his experience as a farmer, than for his physique.

While polls had been showing Dayton leading any of the Republican challengers by at least a few points, the margins were not large enough to consider the race to be an impending blowout. Now, that Republicans have an official nominee, who is free to focus exclusively on Dayton and economic woes in the state, the race may now be tightening. Two polls from August show the Governor leading his GOP challenger by eight or nine points, and at 49 percent of the vote. If that holds up, this race may turn out to be less dramatic than many other recent Minnesota Gubernatorial contests.

Johnson has a chance to get closer, as Dayton has never been an overwhelming performer at the polls, which is why I think this race is only a "Leans Democrat" despite perhaps being on the cusp of a more formidable edge for the incumbent. There is a lot of campaigning left to be done, and if Johnson and the GOP run a near perfect one, an upset could be possible amid a turnout that could favor Republicans. Dayton has the edge though now.

Johnson campaign link:

Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 9 D (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) , 10 R (2 Safe, 2 Likely, 6 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 16 D, 17 R


At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Democratic Socialist Dave said...

Minnesota, like some other states with a Progressive, reform, populistic or insurgent tradition (e.g. Calif., Oregon, Wash.) can be quite thorough in posting historical election statistics if you know where to look.

In this case, a second sweep with Bing for "Minnesota election results 1990 State Auditor" led me to the legislature's reference department, which has started scanning and posting even more past returns (from various official publications) than the Secretary of State's own site, which "only" goes back to 1998.

On November 6, 1990, Mark Dayton (DFL) defeated Bob Heinrich (Ind.-Repub.) by a vote of 1,011,124 to 743,389. Dayton carried Ramsey County 117,775 to 74,954 and Hennepin County 249,045 to 189,230.
A total of 1,843,104 votes were cast for all offices statewide in that election (203,137 in Ramsey co. & 463,930 in Hennepin). I'll leave the calculation of percentages to others.

See pages 3-4 & 7-8 of this PDF (pp. 28-29 & 32-33 of the printed original):

ΒΆ More generally, between the death of Hubert Humphrey and fairly recent years it was quite rare for any Minnesota candidate for Governor or U.S. Senator to win more than 49.9% of the overall vote. The two exceptions were (I thought) Gov. Arne Carleson (I-R) in 1990 and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL) in 2006.

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

DSD, how's everything going with you?

I'm thinking Dayton wins reelection by margin of 54%-42%.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Democratic Socialist Dave, Dayton should be able to win his 4th statewide election (1990 Minnesota State Auditor, 2000 United States Senator and 2010 Governor).


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