Thursday, September 10, 2020

Why Is Minnesota Reddening?

In several places, I've seen folks say that Minnesota is state must likely to flip from Clinton to Trump in 2020.

Even for someone like me, who's generally confident about Biden's chance in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it's hard to argue for an alternative (New Hampshire, maybe?). And Minnesota has hardly been some Democratic bastion over the past few years. It's had recent Republican Governors and Senators; in 2018 it was the only state where the GOP picked up Democratic-held House seats (two of them, in fact; off-set by two losses elsewhere in the state).

Yet for some reason, it still feels odd to me that Minnesota seems to be reddening. The Twin Cities are a redoubt of highly-educated urban professionals -- a demographic that ha turned sharply to the left in recent years. This doesn't mean it is a perfect progressive paradise (recall George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis), but to the extent that Minnesota's population is anchored around the Twin Cities and its suburbs, those are areas where Democrats should be performing better, not worse.

The answer to the riddle, I suspect, is that rural Minnesota took longer to go Republican than other rural areas. Collin Peterson has for 30 years held down a western Minnesota seat that is, by far, the Trumpiest in the country occupied by a Democrat. Until recently, Democrats were dominant in the "iron range" of northern Minnesota -- that region was where one of the two seats the GOP took in 2018 sat. It remains the case that Democrats remain solid in Minnesota's cities and are improving in the suburbs. But Minnesota's long tradition of prairie populism may finally be fading out, and that's made a bunch of historically blue voters finally swap to the GOP.

I don't, to be clear, think it will be enough for the GOP to win the state in 2020 (either at the presidential level, or in Jason Lewis' challenge to incumbent Democratic Senator Tina Smith). I do think that Collin Peterson's luck likely will run-out -- he's got a top-tier opponent and Trump's coattails are just too long to resist in a presidential year. And it's possible that Democratic gains in the suburbs will offset losses in rural locales.

But that's all just hypothesis at this point. Any other candidates for the apparent trend are welcome.

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