The Republicans in Minnesota wasted their two years in control of the state legislature. The Republican-controlled Senate was the first in three decades, and it may be a great deal of time before it happens again.
The Republicans lost control for a few reasons. For the most part, they accomplished nothing meaningful besides passing two ill-timed amendments. They made no major compromises between themselves and Governor Mark Dayton.
The government shutdown in 2011 was another failure because it fit Governor Dayton’s narrative of the Republicans being rabble-rousers. The failure to keep popular services continuing through the shutdown did not help the Republican cause.
Both of the amendments the Republican legislature put on the ballot in 2012 failed. The Voter ID amendment failed because of a barrage of misleading campaign ads. Some ads made it appear as if everyone wanted voter ID, and the reason this amendment was bad was because it didn’t allow all military IDs. This is not true.
Other ads made claims that the amendment would end same-day registration in the state. This is also not true. Voters who cannot verify their identity at the polls would have been allowed to cast a provisional ballot. This provisional ballot would not be counted until the voter verifies their identity in the weeks following the election.
The marriage amendment on the ballot is a different situation. In this case, the Republicans were trying to ensure that current marriage laws in the state are not changed easily. By amending the constitution to include a definition of traditional marriage, Republicans would have made it more difficult to allow for same-sex marriage.
This was a gross miscalculation by the Republicans. While every amendment of this sort had passed in other states, it was clear that the issue is moving in the opposite direction. The amendment served to energize the DFL’s base. College campuses were covered with “Vote No” stickers.
As no consolation, the deck was stacked against the Republicans in the State House and Senate. Gov. Dayton knew that while he had four years before another election, the Republicans only had two. Because Minnesota leans to the Democrats, Dayton probably predicted that his party would regain control.
To make matters worse, the top tickets were lousy. The marriage amendment received more votes than Mitt Romney in the state. If conservatives supporting a marriage amendment won’t support a conservative presidential candidate, the problem may lie in the candidate.
Kurt Bills was also a flop for U.S. Senate. The Ron Paul delegation that nominated him doomed him from the start. His campaign was unorganized and underfunded. They ran out of money a week before the election. Klobuchar is the most popular U.S. Senator, and she beat Bills without breaking a sweat.
The Republicans have been relegated to the gallery for at least two years, and in order to regain at least the House, Republicans must show they are serious about real reform. At least the shifting of school payments will come to an end.
Minnesota should not be run or funded on gimmicks. Republicans need a clearer message about fiscal responsibility, and when given the opportunity, they must seize it.