I have gone out on a limb and predicted that President Trump will carry Minnesota in November, and my friend Jason Lewis will win the state’s Senate seat against the lazy, faceless incumbent, Tina Smith. In recent days, a number of others have written that Minnesota will be in play in November. Today, the liberal site FiveThirtyEight weighed in with a surprisingly fair account of what is going on here: “Why Minnesota Could Be The Next Midwestern State To Go Red.”
The Democratic candidate has won Minnesota in 11 straight presidential elections, the longest active streak in the country. What’s more, no Republican has won any statewide election in Minnesota since 2006 — not for Senate, not for governor, not even for state auditor.
Sad but true.
It’s tempting to conclude from this that Minnesota is a safe Democratic state. But Minnesota is much more evenly divided than that record suggests: For example, it came within a couple percentage points of voting for now-President Trump in 2016.
A point and a half, to be precise.
Most ominously for Democrats, there is evidence that Minnesota is becoming redder over time, with 2016 being a particular inflection point. In 1984, the state was 18.2 points more Democratic than the nation as a whole.
To be fair, that is when native son Walter Mondale was mounting his futile challenge against President Reagan.
But in 2016, for the first time since 1952, Minnesota voted more Republican than the rest of the U.S.
Much more on this at the link.
What explains Minnesota’s rightward shift? Fifty-three percent of the population age 25 and older are non-Hispanic white and lack a bachelor’s degree, a demographic with which Republicans — and especially Trump — have been gaining ground.
A lot of those folks used to vote Democrat, but that is a thing of the past.
[I]n recent elections, Democrats’ pro-environment and anti-gun positions have alienated these voters in places like the Iron Range, an ancestrally Democratic mining region, and in 2016 Trump was able to tap into their racial and economic grievances as well. Democrats went from carrying Minnesota by 7.7 points in 2012 to carrying it by just 1.5 in 2016.
That reference to “racial grievances” is bullshit, but it is true that Greater Minnesota has turned bright red. In Minnesota, as everywhere else, rural areas have gone conservative Republican:
One of the most important divides in Minnesota politics is between the diverse, cosmopolitan Twin Cities metro area and “Greater Minnesota,” whose residents often feel short-changed relative to the metro. In 2016, every county in Greater Minnesota got redder, and 19 of them flipped from Barack Obama to Trump.
Greater Minnesota is now Republican territory, as I have written about a number of times. At the same time, as in many other states, the Twin Cities suburbs have been trending toward the Democrats:
However, there is a silver lining for Democrats: Several counties in the metro actually got bluer in 2016, powered by formerly Republican suburbs like Eden Prairie, Edina and Chanhassen. Still, it wasn’t enough to counterbalance Democrats’ losses in Greater Minnesota, so the state shifted toward Republicans overall.
That blue suburban trend continued in the off-year election of 2018, a bad year for Republicans in Minnesota. Nevertheless, FiveThirtyEight scents trouble:
Democrats are now in serious danger of losing Minnesota for the first time since 1972. It might not happen this year: Biden, after all, leads by 4.2 points in our forecast there. But that is more about Biden’s strength nationally than Minnesota being blue.
You might buy this if you believe in “Biden’s strength nationally,” but I don’t know anyone who does believe in that. My own optimistic prediction is based on two convictions: 1) Greater Minnesota has gotten considerably redder since 2016, a fact for which there is evidence of all kinds, and 2) the suburbs’ leftward swing–especially the leftward swing among suburban women–has been superficial and can be turned around by the issue of crime, violence, rioting, arson and looting. I have said for years that conservatives need an issue that suburban women really care about to counter the vague leftward, feel-good voting patterns that have emerged in the last few cycles. I am betting that crime is that issue.
Will President Trump and the Republicans sweep Minnesota in 2020? We have a long way to go, but for now, I say Yes.
UPDATE: I should add that there is a major joker in the deck, in the form of the Democrats’ voter fraud strategy. In Minnesota, it will be a vote-by-junk-mail election, with hundreds of thousands of ballots mailed out to people who have died, or moved away, or are not legal voters. The Democrats believe that many of these ballots will be fraudulently filled out and returned by their own partisans–the Democrats have eliminated the legal requirement of a witness signature for vote-by-mail ballots–while Republicans will follow the law. I think their calculation is correct, which means that any Republican will probably need a margin of thousands of votes statewide to overcome the Democrats’ voter fraud. In other words, voter fraud could well make the difference this year.