There is no doubt Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders won the presidential nods Tuesday from those who attended Minnesota Republican and Democratic precinct caucuses, but the victories may not have been as big as they appear at first glance.
Headlines like “Rubio and Sanders win” do not tell the full story of what for Republicans was a record-setting caucus and nearly so for Democrats.
The reason to vote on presidential candidates as the caucuses opened was to allow party members to decide how delegates will be divided among candidates at the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer.
In the case of Minnesota Republicans, Rubio apparently will have a few more delegates than Ted Cruz, but not many.
For Republicans, Rubio will get 17 delegates, Cruz 13 and Donald Trump eight. With most votes counted, Rubio had gained 36.5 percent of the vote, Cruz 29 percent and Trump 21.3 percent, with others getting a relatively few votes.
On the Democratic side, Sanders was projected to receive 47 delegates and Hillary Clinton 30, with some votes yet to count.
However, the actual delegate count could be closer. Sixteen Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party officials are not bound by Tuesday’s vote, and most support Clinton. In the unlikely event that Clinton and Sanders were deadlocked heading into the national convention, there could be a close Minnesota vote.
DFL Chairman Ken Martin said that a Sanders-Clinton convention battle is doubtful, meaning the so-called “super delegates” likely will not be the deciding votes.
Sanders had 62 percent of the vote Wednesday morning, compared to 38 percent for Clinton.
More than 100,000 Republicans turned out at caucuses, 75 percent more than the previous record in 2008. Democrats appeared likely to fall a bit short of their 2008 record of 220,000.
Before the caucuses began, the assumption was that a big GOP turnout would be good for Trump, an antiestablishment candidate thought to be attracting people who are frustrated with government.
And in the state that produced Gov. Jesse Ventura, who in many ways is like Trump, some had expected the businessman-television star to do well.
Ventura told Minnesota Public Radio’s Cathy Wurzer on Wednesday that he is more like Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, than he is with rich Trump. The one-term governor said he paid for gasoline so he could drive around the state campaigning, but did not have the money to practically self-fund a campaign like Trump.
“I’m not a billionaire and can’t finance my own campaign like Donald Trump did,” Ventura said.
Even if he is not like Trump, Ventura said that he loves the way Trump is “blowing up” the Republican Party with controversial statements that attract a different element to the party.
Ventura said he will not endorse Sanders or Trump, although he likes both, because he does not believe in political parties. Still, he said that he is considering running for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination once the Democratic and Republican races shake out. He often has launched trial balloons about running for president, but never has done it.
Regardless of what Ventura says or does, the main reason that his supporters did not turn out to back Trump, or Sanders for that matter, is that people Ventura attracts are as against the major parties as he is. They just not are the causing type.
There were early signs that Sanders could do well in the caucus when prominent Democratic farmers began saying they liked the Vermont U.S. senator.
The rural support really showed up in Minnesota, with the congressional district stretching across the southern part of the state giving Sanders his best numbers, winning 66 percent of the vote. Northeast Minnesota was not far behind, at 65 percent.
Other rural areas gave Sanders 62 percent. Only the congressional district that covers Minneapolis joined rural areas in big Sanders support, with a 65 percent approval.
Geographic differences also surfaced on the GOP side.
While Rubio won statewide, Cruz won western Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District (33 percent to 26 percent) and northeastern Minnesota’s 8th district (32 percent to 25 percent). Cruz and Rubio were in a virtual tie in an area north of the Twin Cities where Ventura did best when he was elected in 1998.
Others caucused, too
The Democratic and Republican parties were not the only games in town Tuesday as precinct caucuses shaped Minnesota’s political year.
The Libertarian and Green parties also caucused.
Libertarians reported 227 caucused for their party, with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson the top pick for president of 75 percent. He also ran in 2012.
No votes were reported for former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who on Wednesday said he is “seriously” considering running for president in the Libertarian Party.
In Green Party caucuses, Dr. Jill Stein has won with 84 percent. She is a former Massachusetts governor candidate.