Yesterday, we looked at the changes in voting in the 4th Congressional District after redestricting, and tried to give some context to what were, at face value, disappointing election results. As I noted yesterday, the Tony Hernandez for Congress campaign had some big handicaps – fundraising was as terrible for him as it was for every other Republican, and a redistricting that was pretty benign for Betty McCollum – and a huge one, an epochal DFL turnout against the Marriage Amendment.
Most of those issues were writ larger across the river in the 5th Congressional District, covering Minneapolis and most of Hennepin County. By all accounts, Keith Ellison was the biggest beneficiary from redistricting; the 5th CD became, on paper, even more strongly DFL than it was before. And if anything, the 5th CD’s Republican party was even less functional last year than the 4th’s was.
But Chris Fields, the GOP-endorsed candidate in the 5th, brought the kind of game the GOP hasn’t seen in Minneapolis in way longer than I can remember. Fields was a great candidate; he was elected Secretary of the State GOP last weekend, so hopefully he’ll be in a position to be one again soon. He worked the district hard, had a small but highly-motivated staff, and raised a lot more money than Republicans normally do in the dismal 5th.
And so what happened?
Here are the vote totals and percentages going back to 2000:
But what does this mean in a larger historical context?
As yesterday: the top two rows show how many more voters each party turned out in 2012 than in the year shown below. The additional turnout for the DFL – and Ellison – in 2012 was staggering; 33,000 more than in 2008 (a great DFL year by itself), 43,000 more than in 2004 (a decent GOP year), 85,000 more than in 2000 (an excellent GOP year, outside the 5th anyway).
And as yesterday, the bottom two rows show a “rematch”; the DFL’s numbers in the listed year against Fields’ 2012 numbers. Fields turned out over 30,000 more Republican votes than in most presidential off-years (2002 was a great year for the MNGOP), and 30,000 more than even in 2000, which was a very good GOP year throughout the US.
So what do these numbers mean?
Simply this: the 5th remains a difficult district for Republicans. But the combination of a strong GOP candidate, a motivated campaign that knows how to message the district (as Fields most certainly did, although the Minneapolis media was an even more bald-faced Praetorian Guard for Ellison than it was for McCollum) and raise money makes it possible for the district, as badly as it was gerrymandered, to edge closer to being a 60-40 district than a 75-25 one. And as dismal as that seems, that’s at least within striking distance; Chip Cravaack overcame a 60-40 district in 2010. It’s difficult – but not impossible.
And that is the mission for the GOP in both the 4th and 5th CDs; take their turf from “Impossible” to “Herculean”, and thence maybe to “Difficult”.
More candidates like Fields, like Tony Hernandez and Teresa Collett, will certainly help.
Better-organized District committees will also go a long way, as will a functional state party capable of raising money and – this is important – not undercutting the messaging of the 4th and 5th CD candidates.
And this last year, top-line percentages aside, was a decent start.