Independent Voters to Play Pivotal Role in 2014 Minnesota Elections

PPP, on behalf of the House Majority PAC, did a recent poll of one of the congressional districts in Minnesota that is set to be a “swing district” in 2014. By swing district, I mean it is — so far — looking likely to change from a red district to a blue district, and where an established, multi-term incumbent is failing badly.

There appear to be a few of these enough across the nation to change the control of the House of Representatives, If – and this is a big IF – the Democrats get a net gain in these districts.

There are two such districts in Minnesota: CD2, held currently by John Kline, and possibly CD-6, held by Michele Bachmann.

Before some readers object that Michele Bachmann is going to retire and not run in 2014, I would suggest a healthy bit of skepticism. She has claimed she wasn’t running before, and then ran anyway in 2012.

As a long time Bachmann watcher, conditional on her surviving both the extensive ethics problems facing her, and her legal problems in Iowa, she seems to be positioning herself to make another well-funded last-minute-run. This would give her the advantage over her challenger, who is NOT spending this time fund raising, as Bachmann appears to be.

But back to Kline. As noted by PPP, Kline is so far in the proverbial dog house, that it is very hard to see how he could pull himself out to win another term in the House of Representatives.

However, what struck me as significant was that in polling this congressional district, the poll relied on a disproportionately high percentage of Independents, and the disproportionately high number of people who are likely voters.

Minnesota typically has the highest voter turn out in the nation, but there has never been a 96% percent turnout, as is indicated by this poll.  Mid to high 70 percent is closer to the norm of statewide turnout in a presidential year – which 2014 is not. 

So not only do we have an indication that this is an election that is motivating a high turnout, the poll was weighted toward Independent voters, which argues that entities like the House Majority PAC are very interested in the independent voter demographic. It is not as if Kline’s district was as heavily weighted toward Republicans as the more heavily gerrymandered CD6, currently represented by Bachmann.

The poll was weighted 42 percent Independent voters, 31 percent Democratic voters, and only 27 percent Republican voters. It is worth noting that voters are self-identified, which may or may not be significant in poll results.

District political leanings are only R+2, for CD 2, while the leaning toward Republicans is R+7 for Bachmann’s CD-6.

The poll was taken after the government shutdown, but before the deal made on the debt ceiling crisis. Kline voted with the GOP on the shutdown, but contrary to the tea party on the debt ceiling crisis, unlike Bachmann.

However, unscientifically taking the pulse of CD2, I don’t see a huge upside for Kline or the other GOP member of Congress, Eric Paulsen, for doing this. Bachmann voted for the shutdown, and against the ‘deal’ that started government back up and resolved the debt ceiling crisis, if only temporarily.

Bachmann’s district is also trending Independent, but not as much. The district went from a previous high of R+8 to R+7, in spite of redistricting in 2010 actually making it more, not less, conservative.

Looking at the R-2 metric of how conservative CD2 is, the defections from the Republicans willing to vote against Kline, and at the number of Democrats in the district highly motivated against Kline, this district seems to be more up for grabs.

This in spite of the fact that there is no clear candidate running on behalf of either the Democratic Party in Minnesota (aka the DFL) or as an independent candidate. Looking at polls like this one, unscientific but ongoing at politix topix, there seems to be a good opportunity for independent candidates to run for Congress if a candidate can be found and, of course, if a good campaign can be put together.

If ever there was a time frame where an independent candidate or an Independent or third party candidate could prevail, even without a nationally competitive fund raising machine, it would seem to be in these kinds of swing districts. I expect a change in 2014 in CD2 representation.

Now it only remains to be seen if the opposition will be split between the Democrats and the independents, or if a candidate from one, or the other, will unite the opposition against Kline. What is unmistakably clear is that Independents will be an enormous part of the outcome in Minnesota and in other swing states.