By Don Davis
Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders are on a 30-city pre-election tour with one overriding goal: Get party members to the polls Tuesday.
“When we show up, we win,” Democratic Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges told dozens of party loyalists gathered on a chilly Wednesday morning.
After the rally, featuring 14 speakers, DFL leaders boarded a bus to begin their tour that will last through election eve.
There is a serious concern among Democrats that their members will not show up Tuesday, handing some tight races to Republicans.
While Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken held slim leads in recent polls, Republicans say they are closing the gap in the top two races.
Dayton’s race against Jeff Johnson and Franken’s contest with Mike McFadden have got much of the publicity this year, but just as important is which party controls the state House, where millions of dollars have seen spent to influence a dozen to two dozen tight races.
There is what appears to be a toss-up race in the 8th Congressional District in northeast and east-central Minnesota, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan is trying to hold off GOP upstart Stewart Mills. And western Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District features the tightest race Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson has faced in years, with Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom nipping at his heels.
All of these contests will be decided by people who show up Tuesday.
“There always is a falloff in a non-presidential election,” Dayton said about voter turnout. “It usually affects more DFL voters than Republicans. … We will see who turns out because it all depends on who does turn out.” Franken remembers his 312-vote victory after the 2008 election, following months of recounts and legal wrangling.
Even with polls showing him in the lead this year, he said that he is running like he is behind.
Dayton “won by a large, large margin as far as I’m concerned,” Franken said about the governor’s 8,800-vote 2010 victory.
The governor said that he vetoed 57 bills when Republicans controlled the Legislature in his first two years in office.
Democrats would not have wanted them to become law, he said, adding that Minnesotans like progress they have seen with him in office, supported by a Democratic-controlled Legislature.
While key Democrats are on the bus, Republicans are scattered around the state.
On Wednesday, Johnson’s schedule included meeting voters at a Twin Cities transit station and stops in New Ulm, Fairmont and Worthington. McFadden, meanwhile, spent part of his day in Duluth.
Republicans launched a pre-election campaign against Dayton called “Stop the incompetence. Stop Mark Dayton.” On Wednesday, they alleged that Dayton is “unaware what’s in his bills,” including Vikings stadium seat licenses and farm implement repair taxes.
Dayton, however, told reporters Wednesday that Republicans are “nitpicking” and missing the overall picture of him taking a budget deficit and turning it into a surplus.
“I don’t expect them to have anything good to say about me,” Dayton said. “That is the way politics have become these days. You slash, you trash.” .