Minnesota Swing Report

Guest blog by Ted Fiskevold

[Note from Miryam:  This is so interesting I can't bear to abstract it.  It's posted here with permission.  The original is at Politics-360.]

MN Swing Report

September 18th, 2008 by Ted Fiskevold

FritzEven though McCain and Palin were just in Minnesota for the G0P convention, they will be back in Minnesota around noon today for a rally at the airport in Blaine, a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. Blaine is a smart choice since the northern burbs are filled with Republican and swing voters. The City of Blaine is real close to that line where one can step from the deep blue of the Twin Cities to the red of the suburbs. The “doors” to the airplane hangar will open up at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. It shouldn’t take too much advance work to fill that hangar and I suspect people will be standing on the asphalt outside of the hangar on a very gorgeous last of Minnesota summer day. Blue or red, metro or burb, we northerners collectively call it all “the Sids.”

The “Democrats” are “DFL” in Minnesota—proud members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party which was formed over 60 years ago with the merger of the Dems and the old Farmer-Labor party. It became the party of Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, Senators Paul Wellstone and Eugene McCarthy , and also produced two U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture—Gov. Orville Freeman and Congressman Bob Berglund.

Most polls have Obama and McCain in a dead heat—a recent Mpls Star-Trib poll says 45-45 with 3.5 margin of error. That’s pretty tight for a “Blue” state.

One must keep in mind that this is the state that elected DFL U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone in 1990 while at the same time voting two-term DFL Governor Rudy Perpich out of office in favor of moderate pro-choice Republican Arne Carlson. Back then, the Minnesota Republican Party was known as the Independent Republican (I-R) Party. Carlson would not have been on the ballot if Jon Grunseth, darling of the Christian right and I-R-endorsed candidate had he not been swept up in a scandal involving a swimming pool and teenage girls just weeks before Election Day.

This is also the state that elected Jesse Ventura as Governor in 1998 in a tight three-way race between Hubert “Skip” Humphrey (son of former Vice President Hubert Humphrey), now U.S. Senator Norm Coleman and Jesse. “Independent” or “independence” doesn’t mean a whole lot in Minnesota other than the fact that there is a substantial amount of independent voters who vote all over the map. Jesse was originally in the Independent Party but couldn’t get along with Ross Perot so he pulled out and started the Independence Party.

In 2002, former DFL Congressman Tim Penny ran on the Independence ticket and got 16 % of the vote with a good portion of DFLers in the southern part of Minnesota assuming he was their candidate. Factor in the Wellstone plane tragedy in 2002 and current Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty gets 44 % to DFL State Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe’s 36 % while Green Party candidate Ken Pentel picked up two percent. In the U.S. Senate race that year, Coleman (50 % ) beat Vice President Walter Mondale (47 %). If not for interference from the Bush-Cheney-Rove machine, Pawlenty would have run for the U.S. Senate in 2002 seat which would have left Coleman to either run for governor again or move over.

In 2006, Pawlenty narrowly won reelection. He beat DFL-endorsed candidate Mike Hatch by less than one percent (about 20,000 votes). Independence candidate Peter Hutchinson got about 6.4 percent while Pawlenty/Hatch went 46.7/45.7. Pawlenty, a big player in the GOP veepstakes, has never received 50 % in a statewide race in Minnesota.

Of course Minnesota went for Clinton twice, Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004.

So what does all of that mean now? It means that while the Republican Party faithful of Minnesota are roaring in an airplane hangar in Blaine every time Governor Palin says “Moose” and mixing and mingling with more balloons and confetti, the talk on the streets, in the kitchens and over the backyard fences is that Obama will win in Minnesota.

Farmers in Mahnomen County (which encompasses part of the huge White Earth Band of Ojibwe Reservation) say they can’t afford any more of what the last eight years has brought and if diesel fuel prices keep going up they will just have to park their tractors. They like the fact that the American Corn Grower’s Association (a biofuels-related trade association) has endorsed Obama.

Further south, around Holdingford in Stearns County, the vibes are mixed. Garrison Keillor’s fictitious town of Lake Woebegone is loosely based on Holdingford and in fact, the Lake Woebegone Bicycle trail goes right down the old railroad grade and straight through Holdingford. The folks from Morrison County up above call this area “the Holy Land” since Holdingford is about the only town around there that doesn’t begin with Saint. Heavy with German Catholics or descendants there of, these are socially conservative voters with Virgin Mary statues in their yards and pro-life stickers on their cars. Yet something isn’t quite ringing true with the “Moose” message that is coming from the McCain-Palin ticket. And lately, the buzz in the farm kitchens and around the tailgates is the way the economy seems to be kind of crumbling all around.

Most Minnesotans are only a generation or two off the farm and nearly every Minnesotan knows somebody who still lives and works in farm country. Most Minnesotans have also eaten their fair share of venison chops and venison sausage and the notion that somebody who knows how to field gut a moose should automatically be propelled to the status of potential presidential material seems a little ludicrous to the average Minnesotan. Granted, a moose is a tad bigger than a deer, but the field dressing concept is basically the same. The difference being that one may have to immediately quarter the moose just to carry it out of the woods one quarter at a time or one quarter per person. That is one of the reasons why Minnesota moose licenses are passed out in fours: one moose for four hunters. People who know anything about hunting (which includes most Minnesotans) realize that Sarah Palin very likely did not field dress that moose by herself, unless the other members of her hunting party just sat around laughing and saying “let the maverick do it alone.”

The talk on the streets in Minnesota often includes hunting. The notion that McCain’s VP choice is the first VP candidate or the first female politician to ever shoot a gun or big game is another tough pill to swallow. If former DFL Minnesota State Senator and two-time gubernatorial candidate Becky Lourey went up against Palin at a trap shoot, I’d lay my money on Becky.

Yesterday I called Vice President Mondale’s son, Ted, who told me, “Of course my dad has gutted a deer. He was a farm boy…Dad usually just duck hunts now, but I used to go deer hunting with him years ago and I remember watching dad and his hunting friends field dress a deer…I don’t know if dad field-dressed a moose, but I know we ate moose burgers for what seemed like three years after he was party to a moose hunt.” We agreed that it was time to stop talking “moose” and start talking issues.

The big issue that keeps popping up in every day conversation is the AIG bailout in the wake of the bailout of Fanny and Freddy, and our ever-crumbling economy. I met with two union activist friends of mine, Lon and Chet, after their monthly meeting two nights ago. Both have recently retired from Qwest Communications and they lost about 100 grand each when Qwest’s former CEO Joe Nacchio raided the cookie jar and bilked about three billion bucks. These two guys do not have much sympathy for the Enrons and AIGs and Fannies and Freddies of the world.

“Obama will win in Minnesota and he’ll be the next president unless Rove’s October Surprise is too big to overcome,” Chet stated.

“He’ll have a helluva job trying to pull this country out of the abyss that we’re in,” Lon chimed in. “For the first time in history the world’s economy is ready to move on without us. That’s pretty scary.”

We talked about the ever-burgeoning trade deficit and our national economy that is now based on debt. And I said, “My dad used to say, ‘You gotta trade a trainload of taconite pellets for a few bushels of potatoes…or something…we can’t just have an economy based on nothing…’   Good old dad died in ‘03. If he would have made it to ’04, the re-election of Bush probably would have killed him. If not, he’d’ve died today with AIG’s bailout being the icing on the Fanny and Freddy cake.”

Regarding the U.S. Senate Race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, the overall consensus is that Coleman’s negative ads against Franken are way over the top.

There may be a little more bounce based on tomorrow’s McCain-Palin visit, but the honeymoon for Republicans in Minnesota seems to be just about over.

Ted Fiskevold is a member of the National Writer’s Union, UAW Local 1981, Twin Cities Local 13, AFL-CIO.  Some of his past political jobs included working on the Mondale and Mondale-Ferraro campaigns in 1984, the Humphrey-Moe gubernatorial campaign in 1998, the Moe-Sabo gubernatorial campaign in 2002 and the Minnesota DFL Senate Majority campaigns in 1996, 2000 and 2006.  He has written and photographed for the United Steelworkers, the UAW and the Montana AFL-CIO and a half a dozen mainstream Minnesota newspapers.

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2 Responses to “Minnesota Swing Report”

  1. This is one of the best written pieces from a rural perspective and from a rural state I’ve seen this year.  Wouild love to read more by this writer.  Barb Sackman, and now Ted Fiskevold — Miryam, you do find the most interesting people.

  2. Barack Obama has been keeping a secret from the American public … and it’s right there on top of his head. BO’s Chicago barber Zariff (just one name) says the Prez-elect’s head of hair isn’t quite as silvery-gray as it might appear in

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