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Will the GOP Make Gains in the Minnesota House?

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When the DFL swept its way into control of the Minnesota House in the 2006 election, some Republican officeholders and officials partially attributed the DFL 19-seat net gain to having all the cards fall just right for the DFL – that they won all the close races. House Minority Leader Marty Seifert stated earlier this month that he is therefore, "Very confident we can take the majority. We lost the majority in one cycle, we can take it back in one cycle."

Seifert’s ambitions about taking back the House were originally premised on the DFL nominating Hillary Clinton for President. In a Smart Politics interview with Seifert a little over a year ago, the Minority Leader stated, “I believe firmly that the Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton for President and Al Franken for U.S. Senate. This will be one of the worst top of the tickets for the Democrats in Minnesota for years.?

Seifert’s hopes were, in fact, some DFL-ers' fears. In fact, one freshman DFL House member in a purple district told Smart Politics last summer that Clinton would be such a liability for the DFL that this Representative might not even run for re-election (with Barack Obama now the nominee, that individual is indeed running for a 2nd term).

It is true that in November 2006, the DFL won a majority of competitive races – those decided by 10 points or less – but far from all of them. The DFL won 27 of these races (61 percent), compared to 17 for the GOP (39 percent).

Still, Seifert and the Republicans face a mighty battle to gain even 5 or 10 seats, let alone take back control of the House.

First, Republicans will have to defend twice as many open districts (10) as the DFL (5). Two of these districts were competitive in 2006 (21B and 49B).

Secondly, as a result, the DFL will have more than twice as many incumbents on the ballot (80) as the GOP (39) – presuming that neither side experiences casualties in the September primaries. Thirteen percent of Republican incumbents (5 districts) are facing primary challengers (Districts 25A, 35B, 36A, 41B, 48B), compared to ten percent (8 districts) for the DFL (Districts 05B, 27A, 42A, 55A, 56A, 58A, 58B, 59B).

Thirdly, since the 1964 election the DFL has gained seats on the GOP in 7 presidential election years (1964, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1992, 2000, 2004), held serve once (1976), and lost seats to Republicans just 3 times (1984, 1988, 1996).

With Democratic enthusiasm riding higher than that for the Republicans by most metrics so far in Campaign 2008, Seifert’s characteristically bold prediction seems difficult to foresee. In fact, the DFL might just eke out the three net seats needed to give the Party its largest advantage in the House since 1976.

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Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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