Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics

Live Blog: State of the GOP and Conservatism in Minnesota

Bookmark and Share

12:00 p.m. Today's forum at the Humphrey Institute, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, focuses on the state of the Minnesota Republican Party and conservatism. The event is moderated by Dr. Larry Jacobs, Director of the Center, and includes the following panelists:

Steve Sviggum, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
Bill Cooper, former Chair, Minnesota Republican Party
Mary Liz Holberg, member, Minnesota House of Representatives
Jeff Blodgett, Executive Director, Wellstone Action

Also blogging here today are Drew Emmer of Wright County Republican and Michael Brodkorb of Minnesota Democrats Exposed. Renowned writer and blogger Eric Black (of Eric Black Ink) is also present.

A little background - in Minnesota, self-identified Republicans have been outnumbered in Minnesota by Democrats for more than two years now, according to monthly tracking polls by SurveyUSA. In its latest poll (December 2007) 28 percent of Minnesotans identified themselves as Republicans, compared to 36 percent as Democrats and 29 percent as independents. The GOP hasn't led the Democrats in that poll since October 2005, when they held a 29 to 28 percent margin.

12:06 p.m. Dr. Jacobs begins by outlining the remarkable Republican presidential campaign to date and the conservative credentials of the remaining candidates.

12:10 p.m. Bill Cooper is the first panelist. Cooper agrees with Jacobs that none of the Republican presidential candidates have all three primary conservative credentials (economic conservatism, social conservatism, and backing a strong military). Cooper states the key to the election is independents. Independents dislike politicians, he says, but are not 'moderates' per se - they are disaffected voters who do hold strong views. Politicians, Cooper says, make the mistake to moderate their policies to cater to these independents in hopes of getting their vote. Cooper says the opposite happens - independents see right through this. Cooper believes the GOP presidential candidate most likely to appeal to independent voters in 2008 is John McCain.

12:17 p.m. Representative Mary Liz Holberg is the next panelist to speak. Holberg describes the difference between linear issues, such as 'life' (abortion rights) and circular - or more libertarian - issues. The latter (e.g. the smoking ban) frequently sees members on the extreme sides of the political spectrum working together (Holberg recounts working with Keith Ellison when he was at the state Capitol).

12:22 p.m. Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Steve Sviggum is the next panelist to speak. He states he has always been a strong Republican, but not always a strong conservative. He states there must be room for compromise in politics ("This isn't Burger King - you can't just order what you want"). Sviggum points out that almost all the presidential candidates have been calling for 'change' - but no one is outlining the substance of what changes should come. Sviggum says the only possibility of change will be if it comes from the Republican Party. Sviggum believes the Democratic Party is too tied to special interests to enact real reform (e.g. education reform - controlled by the education unions; legal reform - controlled by the trial lawyers). It is not clear if Sviggum is speaking comparatively here (i.e. Democrats are more tied to the special interests than the GOP) or if he believes interest groups do not substantially influence Republican officeholders. He doesn't leave much hope for Republicans to enact change because he says, "we're scared to implement change." The center of the GOP, says Sviggum, should be fiscal conservatism and limited government; he also states there should be room for both pro-life and pro-choice within the party.

12:30 p.m. Jeff Blodgett, Executive Director of Wellstone Action, is the last panelist to speak. Blodgett ran three of the late Senator Paul Wellstone's campaigns. Blodgett characterized the 12 year period of GOP control of Congress as one of hubris and "bad governing," which led to the loss of independent voters and their majority in 2006. Blodgett states it is easier for a party to be out of power and push from the outside than in power, which is one of the reasons why Democrats and progressives have had trouble getting their agenda implemented in D.C.

12:36 p.m. When asked about the tension between the libertarian (e.g. Ron Paul) wing of the Republican Party and the power brokers of the Party, Bill Cooper said "Ron Paul should select Dennis Kucinich as his running mate."

12:40 p.m. Sviggum states that, nationally (not necessarily in Minnesota) Republicans "got what they deserved" in 2006 when they lost power - because they became what they had run against. The GOP in Washington had become "part of the problem." Sviggum also states it is difficult for a party that holds itself up as the party of values to endure all the scandals over the past few years. The party was seen as made up of hypocrites.

12:47 p.m. Holberg states the social conservative wing of the GOP is not taken for granted, but that the Republican Party is not in danger of losing them because "They have no where else to go." (note: former GOP Congressman Vin Weber, who spoke at the Institute in late 2007, disagrees with this point quite strongly.)

12:54 p.m. Cooper was asked if tax increases might be necessary given "bridges are falling," in the state. Cooper points out Minnesota is the 5th most taxed state. He says Minnesota is the 20th largest state with the 5th largest road system and costs 20 percent more to build and maintain a road in Minnesota compared to nationally. Cooper maintains the state does not need new or more taxes to pay for the state's transportation needs.

1:01 p.m. Sviggum (the former Minnesota House Speaker who represented the Kenyon / Wanamingo part of the state) states that the party does not need 'anger' or 'hate' (e.g. against the poor or pro-choice advocates) to motivate the electorate to vote for the GOP.

Previous post: Smart Politics to Live Blog at MN GOP Forum
Next post: McCain Only GOP-er to Defeat Dems in Minnesota

1 Comment

  • No kidding! Minnesota is already taxed way too high. Some budget cuts are definitely a need right now so we can focus on more important things.

  • Leave a comment

    Remains of the Data

    Which States Have the Longest and Shortest Election Day Voting Hours?

    Residents in some North Dakota towns have less than half as many hours to cast their ballots as those in New York State.

    Political Crumbs

    No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

    Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).

    The Second Time Around

    Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


    Humphrey School Sites
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Foreign affairs
    Race and ethnicity
    Third parties