Electoral College a learning experience

Moren, left, votes

Joe Moren taught high school students about the Electoral College for 40 years, but he really came to understand it Monday when he cast a vote for Barack Obama.

The 82-year-old Hibbing man, one of Minnesota’s 10 electors, has been active in Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party politics most of his life, but usually not in the spotlight, saying: “I enjoyed being a king-maker rather than a king.”

When he cast his vote Monday, he became the ultimate “king maker” along with 534 other electors around the country. They decided, officially, that Obama was re-elected.

Lil Ortendahl of Osakis watched as Moren and others voted for Obama. She was there herself a few years ago, but on Monday was on standby as an alternate elector.

The Electoral College “is important for democracy and everyone feels part of the government,” she said after a formal hour-long ceremony in the Minnesota state Capitol.

While the Electoral College is part of the country’s election process, Ortendahl and others wonder if it would be better to make presidential elections better reflect the voters.

The U.S. Constitution established the institution, with one elector for each member of a state’s congressional delegation. While it did not happen this year, it is possible that a candidate who gets the most popular votes can lose in the Electoral College.

Each party picks electors, and in Minnesota all electoral votes go to the candidate who wins.

Being an elector is an honor for party loyalists.

Gov. Mark Dayton told those gathered to see the Electoral College vote in the state Capitol rotunda that the American system is an example for the world, as despite campaigns coming from opposite political sides, the turnover of power always is peaceful.

Moren agreed, citing countries like Syria, where it may take violence to change leaders.

As a teacher in Wisconsin for five years and 35 years in Hibbing, Moren taught about the Electoral College from a textbook. But, he said, it took on more meaning when he took part.

The teacher in him led to a minor issue Monday. When he was given the first ballot, it listed both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, so as a teacher he followed instructions and voted for both. However, the ballot was supposed to be just for president, so his first effort was tossed out and he cast his real vote on a second ballot, one which is headed to the National Archives.

While Ortendahl said she was proud to be part of the process, “I have a little trouble with it.”

Minnesota’s winner-take-all system is not fair, said the woman who has been involved in politics for 45 years. If the popular vote is divided, the Electoral College vote should be, too, she said.

The U.S. Constitution leaves it up to states to decide such details.

State legislators from both major parties told reporters before the Electoral College met that the institution should be changed, saying the current system gives some states more power than others.

“The state of Minnesota is not responsible for preserving the political power of voters in Ohio, Florida and a shrinking number of battleground states,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said.

He is part of a movement known as National Popular Vote that is pushing a bill to require electoral votes to be granted based on popular vote.

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Minnesota vote for president and vice president:

– Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Democratic Party, 1,546,167 (52.65  percent)

– Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Republican Party, 1,320,225 (44.96 percent)

– Gary Johnson and Jim Gray, Libertarian Party, 35,098 (1.20 percent)

– Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, Green Party, 13,023 (0.44 percent)

– Virgil Goode and Jim Clymer, Constitution Party, 3,722 (0.13 percent)

– Jim Carlson and George McMahon, Grassroots Party, 3,149 (0.11 percent)

– Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson and Luis J. Rodriguez, Justice Party, 1,996 (0.07 percent)

– Dean Morstad and Josh Franke-Hyland, constitutional government, 1,092 (0.04 percent)

– James Harris and Maura Duluca, Socialist Workers Party, 1,051 (0.04 percent)

– Peta Lindsay and Yari Osorio, socialism and liberation, 397 (0.01 percent)

– Write-in candidates, 10,641 (0.36 percent)

Election Notebook: Minnesota draws presidential campaign interest

Hurricane Sandy has blown presidential campaigns into Minnesota.

As a storm forced President Barack Obama, challenger Mitt Romney and others to cancel East Coast campaign stops, their campaigns looked toward what some see as a newly competitive Minnesota.

Former President Bill Clinton plans Minnesota campaign stops today and rumors persisted Monday that Republican Romney or his running mate, Paul Ryan, would be in Minnesota this week. Republican officials said they could not confirm a GOP candidate visit.

Clinton is to campaign for Obama and other Democrats in Minneapolis and Duluth.

President Barack Obama’s campaign indicated that Clinton will appear a week before Election Day at the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus’ McNamara Alumni Center. Doors are to open at 9:30 a.m., with the rally expected at 10:30 a.m.

He is to appear in the Kirby Student Center at the University of Duluth. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., it remained unclear when the event would begin.

Details of the visit remained sketchy Monday evening.

The Obama campaign site indicated that people wanting to attend the Duluth rally could fill out a form at http://tinyurl.com/clintonduluth. The Minneapolis site is http://tinyurl.com/MplsClinton.

Obama’s campaign brushed aside talk that the Minnesota race is tightening when the Democratic incumbent had expected to be holding a larger lead.

A Star Tribune poll released during the weekend showed Obama’s Minnesota lead falling to 3 percentage points after observers saying the president looked to have a solid lead. The 3 points is within the poll’s margin of error.

On the other hand, a St. Cloud State University poll shows Obama holds a comfortable 13-point lead among all Minnesotans and remains 8 points ahead among those most likely to vote.

The candidates have spent most of their time in a handful of states expected to be close. But with Sandy affecting a couple of those states, campaigns turned some of their attention to other potentially tight states.

Two Minnesota neighbors, Iowa and Wisconsin, are among those swing states and have attracted lots of campaign attention. Clinton plans to visit both of those states this week, along with Colorado, Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire.

On Monday night, Clinton scheduled a rally for U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp in Fargo, N.D.

“President Clinton’s trip will include both a mix of battleground states, where he will continue to lay out the choice for the American people in this election, and states with strong Democratic bases, where he will fire up supporters and urge them to help get out the vote for President Obama,” the Obama campaign reported.

Polls disagree in 8th

Polls in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District point out one fact: The race is close.

A Public Policy Polling survey shows U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack trails Democratic challenger Rick Nolan 48 percent to 44 percent. Cravaack’s campaign released an internal poll indicating he leads 50-40.

Each poll was criticized by the campaign it showed to be trailing.

The campaign in the district that stretches from the extreme northern Twin Cities suburbs to northeast and north-central Minnesota is one of the country’s closest watched. It also is among the top in receiving money from outside of the campaigns.

Two years ago, Republican Cravaack upset longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar. Democrat Nolan was congressman three decades ago.

Bachmann: ‘Much to do’

U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachman pleads with conservatives to donate to her campaign because “eight days is not a lot of time. We still have much to do.”

In a Monday email, she asked for 8,000 people to donate to her campaign “to defeat Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and their liberal allies. …”

It was one of dozens of emails Minnesota political activists sent Monday as they seek money to fund late campaign activities in the week before the election.

Big Klobuchar lead

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has a 27-point lead among likely voters, a St. Cloud State University released Monday shows.

Of all Minnesotans, the Democrat’s lead is 34 percent.

The university survey department called it a “probably insurmountable lead” over Republican challenger Kurt Bills.

No amendment recounts

Minnesotans may be used to election recounts, they are not allowed on proposed constitutional amendments, the Minnesota secretary of state’s office reports..

However, many observers predict that if either constitutional amendment wins a week from today, that it could end up in court. Proposed amendments would define marriage as between a man and a woman and would require Minnesotans to produce photographic identification before voting.

Election Notebook: No GOP judicial endorsements

Minnesota’s Republican Party chairman wants to make sure everyone understands that his party has not endorsed judicial candidates.

“In May, our state GOP convention expressly decided not to endorse any statewide judicial candidate in 2012,” Chairman Pat Shortridge wrote in an email. “Some in our party continue to refuse to accept this fact, a source of growing frustration for us and the members of the State Executive Committee.”

Shortridge was responding to another email, from Bonn Clayton, who sent a link to an online voters’ guide that Shortridge said implied Republican support for some judicial candidates. The official party voters’ guide includes candidates’ resumes and short statements, but does not take sides.

The Republican platform indicates that the party supports endorsing candidates, but delegates opted against that this year.

One of the state high court challengers, Tim Tinglestad of Bemidji, said it is hypocritical of the Republican Party to have a platform that supports endorsements, then not follow through. He faces Justice David Stras in the Nov. 6 election.

The three Supreme Court justices up for election this year all were appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Obama kickoff

President Barack Obama’s campaign launched a statewide tour Monday to get out the vote on Nov. 6.

The “Gotta Vote” tour will make more than 40 stops. Elected Minnesota Democratic officials will join the tour along the way. It runs through Monday.

Tuesday’s stops include Detroit Lakes, Crookston and Moorhead, while it heads northeast to Grand Rapids and Duluth on Wednesday.

Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, does not have a Minnesota office.

Billboard defaced

A Minneapolis billboard supporting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages was defaced after a group supporting the proposal aired television commercials citing similar examples in six other states.

What looked like paint was thrown on the billboard, proving what amendment supporters said was what Minnesotans can expect if the amendment fails.

“This kind of disrespect is a perfect example of what Minnesotans, who simply believe marriage is between one man and one woman, can expect if marriage is redefined,” said Chairman John Helmberger of Minnesota for Marriage. “Minnesotans need to understand that when marriage is redefined, the lifestyle is not simply one of ‘live and let live.’”

The newest Minnesota for Marriage commercial includes information about a Vermont inn that was successfully sued for not allowing a same-sex couple to say.

 NAACP: ‘Vote no’

The national NAACP president told a St. Paul crowd Monday that he opposes a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“This amendment should send a shiver down the spine of all leaders who know the constitution should be used to expand rights, not restrict them,” Benjamin Jealous said. “We’re proud at the NAACP to be working all across the country to help protect freedoms for all people.”

 Singing to a crowd

The Republican U.S. House candidate in western Minnesota packed the house in Alexandria with country music singer Lee Greenwood.

The artist who made “God Bless the USA” famous was the Sunday night headliner at an event for Lee Byberg, who is making his second challenge to Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.

The Greenwood concert was the final in a tour of Byberg’s Northern Lights Freedom Chorus. Peterson himself long has been part of the Second Amendments, a group of congressmen from both parties that from time to time gets together to play oldies and country music.

Byberg’s campaign estimates Sunday night’s crowd in Alexandria topped 2,000.

 Poll: Cravaack trails

A Star Tribune poll shows U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack trails Rick Nolan by 7 percentage points.

The poll, released Monday, contradicts a Survey USA-KSTP poll that showed on Oct. 10 the two were in a dead heat in the 8th Congressional District.

The Star Tribune poll gives Nolan, a Democrat, a 50-43 lead, with 7 percent still undecided.

Presidential candidate has principle, not party

When Minnesotans look over names of 10 presidential candidates on their Nov. 6 ballots, they may not know if labels represent a candidate’s party or his principle.

Dean Morstad, one of the 10 candidates, was not happy that he was listed as a member of the Constitutional Party.

“I actually do not belong to any party,” Morstad said. “The Minnesota ballot petition required that I list my ‘party or principle,’ so I listed the ‘principle’ of constitutional government.”

Ballots do not differentiate principle from party.

Romney, Obama show rural policy differences

Questionnaires and other sources provide a glimpse into what President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney think about rural issues since they seldom discuss the topic on the campaign trail.

In short, a Romney surrogate said the Republican presidential candidate’s plan for rural America is to promote foreign trade, get government off the backs of rural residents, lower taxes and “develop a more sensible approach to regulation.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. agriculture secretary, made the comments in a rare forum about rural presidential politics in Des Moines, Iowa.

Countering Johanns in the forum was former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, who also was that state’s agriculture secretary for several years. She said Democrat Obama has done well in expanding farm export markets and he has “made incredible progress boosting a strong farm economy.”

Here is a look at some issues:

Farm bill

The two candidates appear to have more agreement than disagreement on a proposed farm bill that would shift away from giving farmers subsidies to establishing a more robust crop insurance program to better protect farmers during disasters.

“There has been substantial agreement,” Johanns said about new federal farm policies, but the two campaigns have not been clear on where the candidates disagree.

Obama said in answering a Farm Bureau questionnaire that a farm bill should be passed this year to provide farmers protection. “That’s why I have called for maintaining a strong crop insurance program and an extended disaster assistance program.”

The president and his supporters say they would expect Romney to raise crop insurance rates, while the administration proposed reducing farm subsidies and using that money to aid crop insurance and to bump up conservation program funding.

Romney said he supports a “strong farm bill that provides the appropriate risk management tools. …”

The challenger warned that since other countries subsidize farmers, “we must be careful not to unilaterally change our policies in a way that would disadvantage agriculture here in our country.”

Taxes

The estate tax, which Republicans like to call the “death tax,” would be nearly eliminated in a new Obama administration, the president told the Farm Bureau.

Obama said his proposal to charge no tax on $7 million of estate value would mean just 60 small farms and business estates in the country would owe any estate tax next year.

Romney pledged to eliminate the estate tax, which he said would allow more farms and ranches to remain in the family.

The president said federal leaders need to overhaul the entire tax code to eliminate “inefficient, unfair duplicative or even unnecessary” provisions. He said his plan to continue tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans would be his first step, along with increasing taxes for households with annual income more than $250,000.

In talking about rural taxes, Romney uses much the same wording as when talking about general tax issues.

“We must pass fundamental tax reform that lowers tax rates, broadens the base, achieves revenue neutrality and maintains the progressivity of the tax code,” he said, claiming his philosophy would help create 12 million jobs in his first year as president.

Environmental policy

Farmers, miners and other rural Americans blame the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency for bringing up a string of proposed regulations not popular in their areas.

In general, Romney calls for fewer and less restrictive federal environmental rules while Obama more often supports existing policy.

To the Farm Bureau questions, Obama said he will not apply new standards “to waters that have not been historically protected. And all existing exemptions for agricultural discharges and waters are going to stay in place.”

Romney said that laws and rules written to protect health and environment “have, instead, been seized on by environmentalists as tools to disrupt economic activity and the enjoyment of our nation’s environment altogether.” He said that has been Obama’s approach as his EPA engaged in “the most far-reaching regulatory scheme in American history.”

Federal rules should support development, not impede it, Romney said.

“They were going to treat milk like oil spills,” said Johanns, who grew up in northern Iowa, just south of the Minnesota border.

Eventually, the EPA backed down on classifying milk spills like oil spills and requiring more extensive clean-up procedures than dairy farmers felt were needed. The EPA also did not take action on another proposed rule: requiring farmers to control dust.

“If Barack Obama is re-elected, we are going to be dealing with the dust regulations again,” Johanns predicted.

Judge said Johanns is wrong: “There are no pending regulations by EPA to regulate dust.”

Temporary workers

The candidates agree there is a need to speed immigrant worker visas so tourism and agriculture businesses can get the seasonal workers they need.

Obama said a new system must be designed, one that protects American workers’ wages and working conditions.

Until Congress agrees on such a system, the president said his administration is working to improve the situation on its own, including establishing the Office on Farmworker Opportunities.

Romney said that he would order faster visa approvals.

“Indeed, in 2006 and 2007, 43 percent of all applications for temporary agricultural workers were not processed on time,” Romney said.

Invasive species

While Obama appointed a person to head efforts to block the advance of Asian carp, the most publicized invasive species, local officials have been frustrated by what they see as lack of action.

An Obama spokeswoman said he will move ahead with efforts to try to keep the carp with huge appetites out of the Great Lakes, but could give no specifics.

While the president waits for a study to decide if he would plug a man-made connection between the Illinois River and the Great Lakes, a potential Asian carp entryway, Romney said in answering a Keep America Fishing questionnaire that he would speed up the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study and act quickly.

“I am deeply concerned about the threat posed to the lakes by invasive species from the Mississippi River basin, and I am outraged that five years after Congress ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to identify a solution that we are still years away from a recommendation,” Romney said. “America put a man on the moon in less time than that.”

Obama countered that his administration has “launched multiple efforts to encourage state, local and federal authorities to coordinate in their efforts to mitigate the spread of Asian carp.”

Fishing

Recreational fishing is burdened by too many regulations, Romney said.

He pledged to “put the focus back on common sense regulations that can protect and rebuild fisheries when necessary, but will also allow anglers greater access to healthy marine resources.”

Obama said that his administration has created many public recreational areas and will continue to work on encouraging conservation of lands and waters.

Rural issues missing from presidential campaign

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney pretty much ignore rural-specific issues as they campaign.

It is not that they lack a chance to talk about such issues. Some of the major swing states are heavy on agriculture and candidates often stop there, with Iowa and Wisconsin two Midwestern cases in point.

For example, Romney announced his candidacy in June 2011 on a picturesque New Hampshire farm, but said nothing about rural issues during his 21-minute speech. Obama this summer stood in an Iowa farm museum, but only mentioned a nearby antique tractor and bales of hay stacked around him, fitting a couple of sentences about renewable fuels into his standard campaign speech.

“Neither really mentions rural policy in any meaningful way,” said David Flynn, University of North Dakota Economics Department chairman. “Both candidates clearly miss an opportunity to score some points by showing they understand.”

It is a trend that U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has seen for many years.

Still, Peterson said, it may not matter what they say.

“I think it is going to bring problems to us no matter who wins,” said Peterson, the top-ranking House Agriculture Committee Democrat. “We will just have to deal with it.”

For Peterson, the short of it is that former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, a Republican, wants to reduce regulations, something many rural residents strongly favor. But the congressman’s fellow Democrat, President Obama, does a better job of supporting the farm bill, which includes farmer disaster protection and a variety of rural development provisions.

Added Flynn: “You probably are not going to get everything you want from either candidate.”

With divisions like that, presidential campaign observers say that issues may be less important than party affiliation.

Rural voters are “forced” to back the candidate of their favorite parties, Flynn said, because neither delivers enough information for them to make good decisions.

“Neither candidate is laying out any specifics regarding rural-specific policies, even the consequences of other policy ideas such as energy on rural economies,” Flynn said. “There is no attention being paid to it. At some level, it is a disservice.”

A member of Romney’s Agriculture Advisory Team is not happy that rural America seldom receives the candidates’ notice.

“Agriculture is not a huge piece of the policy portfolio for either candidate,” said Ed Schafer, former North Dakota governor and U.S. agriculture secretary. “I think it is bad.”

In not discussing farming, he added, the candidates ignore facts such as the country has the largest, safest and most affordable food supply available and the only major part of the economy in which the United States exports more than it imports.

“It provides a tremendous strength to the state and to the nation,” Schafer said.

The Obama administration mostly focuses on renewable fuels when it comes to agriculture, Schafer said. That means, he added, if other parts of the farm sector have needs, they “can’t get an ear anywhere.”

Peterson said Obama has no rural experts in the White House, relying mostly on former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to represent rural America as agriculture secretary.

Rural America is not on the front burner for one main reason: votes.

“The challenges in front of rural America are not easy to solve now and the votes are in the urban area,” said Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, a national group that tracks rural issues.

The lack of discussion by candidates extended to the two campaigns, which despite repeated Forum Communications requests over several weeks did not produce representatives to discuss rural issues. Still, supporters, other observers and the candidates’ answers to questionnaires provide ideas about where they stand on rural matters.

In answers to questions submitted by the Farm Bureau and Keep America Fishing, Romney frequently discussed the need to improve the economy.

“The state of our economy is a very serious threat to our nation’s fisheries and recreational fishing,” Romney wrote about fishing issues. “Right now fishermen are concerned about how to pay their bills and what the future will hold for them and their families. The comfort of being out on the water is a little less relaxing for recreational fishermen when they are worried about the price at the pump.”

Being the incumbent, Obama could boast accomplishments.

“We kicked off the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, which is targeting ecological problems such as invasive species, toxic hot spots, polluted runoff from farms and cities and declining wildlife habitat,” the president said in response to a question about invasive species.

Many rural campaign watchers, including miners and farmers, turn to candidates’ environmental policy proposals as indicators of there they stand.

The two candidates showed differences, but not specifics, in answering a Farm Bureau questionnaire

Obama tried to assure rural Americans that rumored environmental rules will not materialize. For example, he promised not to expand water restrictions.

Romney, meanwhile, promoted “modernizing” environmental laws. In the first presidential debate, the Republican emphasized the need for relaxed federal regulations.

For some, despite lack of candidate attention, it is obvious who to support.
If Romney is elected, Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson said, “you would have Cargill running the country. … It is all about venture capitalists.”

Rural residents do not like Romney’s investor background, the Farmers Union leader said.
Obama’s focus on renewable energy means other rural issues are ignored, Schafer said.

“You have a big dairy farmer some place that is struggling with some issue … and they can’t get an ear anywhere,” Schafer said. “If you are in production agriculture that isn’t tied somehow with alternative or renewable fuels, there is no focus.”
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Here is a list of presidential and vice presidential candidates to be in front of Minnesota voters Nov. 6:
Republican: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
Democrat: Barack Obama and Joe Biden
Libertarian: Gary Johnson and Jim Gray
Socialist Workers Party: James Harris and Maura Deluca
Constitution Party: Virgil Goode and Jim Clymer
Constitutional Party: Dean Morstad and Josh Franke-Hyland
Green Party: Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala
Grassroots Party: Jim Carlson and George McMahon
Socialism and Liberation: Peta Lindsay and Yari Osorio
Justice Party: Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson and Luis J. Rodriguez

Hunters gunning for Romney

A Wall Street Journal story illustrates how hunters and other gun advocates see difference between the two major presidential candidates.

Outdoors retailer Cabela’s expects a run on guns and ammunition if President Barack Obama is re-elected, much like happened when he first was elected in 2008, because many gun owners expect him to try to crack down on guns. They wanted to stock up on items they thought might be hard to obtain under Obama.

If challenger Mitt Romney wins, however, a Cabela’s spokesman said the Republican supports gun owners, so they likely would spend their money on outdoors clothes instead of ammunition and guns.

There has been little change in federal gun laws in the four years Obama has been in office. His campaign said that the president supports the Second Amendment that gives Americans the right to own guns.

Updated: Iowa native Bachmann did not run Iowa-style campaign

Forum Communications reporter Don Davis, an Iowa native who spent a good deal of his career there, provides an analysis of Tuesday’s Iowa caucus results:

Michele Bachmann’s last-place finish among Republican presidential candidates competing in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses surprised few veteran Iowa caucus observers.

The Minnesota congresswoman did not campaign like Iowans expect: They want one-on-one opportunities with candidates, and Bachmann seldom delivered.

She finished sixth with 5 percent of the vote as Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul ended close together at the top.

This morning, she canceled a South Carolina campaign swing after vowing Tuesday to continue her campaign. Her former campaign manager, long-time GOP activist Ed Rollins, called on Bachmann to drop out of the race, and her canceled trip fueled speculation she would do just that.

Tuesday’s big surprise was former U.S. Sen. Santorum, who few Iowans knew before 2011. His supporters said he did well because of his grass roots campaign in a state where that works.

Early in her campaign, Bachmann entered an event like a rock star, to loud cheers from people who did not know her well. That style worked as she was getting her name out, but she did not click with Iowans when it counted — the last couple of months.

Iowans expect candidates to take time to answer questions and, often, talk to them individually. That was not Bachmann’s style.

In much of her campaign, the congresswoman refused to talk to national and regional media, and at times she even would not talk to local reporters who could have spread her message in the small towns that dot Iowa.

During the Iowa State Fair, Bachmann angered her own supporters by showing up an hour late to a speech. She then won a major straw poll in Ames, but her fortunes went downhill after that.

While Bachmann was running rock-star style, Santorum met with those potential caucus-goers in small groups. Sometimes those meetings were tiny, maybe with just three to five people. That is the type of retail politics that works in Iowa.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter brought his “Peanut Brigade” from Georgia to Iowa, going from “Jimmy who?” to “President Carter.” His fellow Georgians — complete with southern accents that Iowans loved — spent quality time with Iowans who Carter himself missed, or ones who needed more convincing. That campaign gave Iowa the spotlight early in presidential campaigns.

Bachmann is the second Minnesota politician to suffer at Iowa Republicans’ hands in recent months.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty bet everything his campaign had, and then some, on the August Ames straw poll. He finished far behind winner Bachmann and the next day dropped out of the race.

Pawlenty later said he devoted too much money to Iowa and now some pundits say that had he stayed in the race he could have done well Tuesday.

Throughout the night, Bachmann was considering whether she should follow Pawlenty’s lead and leave the race.


Obama to promote rural investments during Midwest swing

President Barack Obama has new ammunition to tell Midwesterners that he is working for rural America when he visits Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois in the next few days.

His administration Friday released a report claiming it has “made significant investments” in programs ranging from jobs to health care. That is part of what he will discuss in a rare rural-oriented visit to Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

“It is important for the president to be in a place to underscore the importance agriculture is making to the country,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, told reporters Friday.

Vilsack and Obama Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said Midwesterners should expect significant announcements related to rural issues during the trip.

Obama starts a three-day bus tour in Cannon Falls, Minn., at mid-day Monday, the only Minnesota stop announced by the White House.

Vilsack said the Obama trip meshes with Obama’s instructions to Cabinet secretaries to travel rural America to “to listen and to learn.”

During the bus trip, Obama “wants to engage in a conversation with the American people … to talk about how the economy is affecting them,” Pfeiffer said.

The White House had not released details about how that conversation will occur at Cannon Falls and four other town hall meetings he plans on his trip.

Obama Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Midwesterners should be happy to see the president.

“I do think that Democrats, independents and Republicans expect to see their president of the United States outside of Washington, D.C., out from behind the podium, spending time talking to the American people in their communities about the economy and the range of other issues that are being discussed here at the White House and how they’re influenced by those policy debates,” Earnest said.

On his trip, Earnest added, Obama expects to hear about frustration with the “dysfunction in Congress” as well as some supporters who question his compromise with congressional Republicans over a debt-reduction deal.

Obama will be in Cannon Falls’ Lower Hanna’s Bend Park for an 11:45 a.m. Monday outdoors “town hall” meeting. A limited number of tickets are available beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday at Cannon Falls City Hall, 918 River Road.

The president then attends a Decorah, Iowa, town hall meeting and on Tuesday hosts a rural economic forum in northeastern Iowa before making Wednesday stops in western Illinois.

The White House says the visit is official, although some Republicans say it appears to be a campaign swing.

Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign featured little discussion about rural issues. A stop Obama made in Eau Claire, Wis., just before the Democratic National Convention was one of his few rural-oriented appearances.

In Iowa this year, rural issues have been surprisingly absent from most discussion as Republican presidential candidates campaign in anticipation of the key caucuses next winter. Candidates barely have been seen on farms, which traditionally have served as backdrops to Iowa campaign stops.

UPDATE: White House mum on Obama Midwest trip details

Obama 2008 speech in St. Paul

President Barack Obama plans a southern Minnesota visit next week to start a three-state rural Midwestern tour.

The White House late Tuesday afternoon issued a statement with no details.

“President Obama will travel to the Midwest on a three-day economic bus tour, making stops in southern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and western Illinois,” the short White House statement said. “The president will discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation and hear directly from Americans, including local families and small business owners.  The president knows we must do everything we can to promote economic growth, restore confidence in our nation’s future and restore the sense of optimism for future generations.”

While the trip was revealed last week, the White House on Tuesday continued to offer no information about where he would be other than a previously announced northeastern Iowa rural forum.

Obama is to be in Minnesota Monday. On Tuesday, the president heads to Peosta, Iowa, where he will hold a rural economic forum at Northeast Iowa Community College.

The rural trip wraps up in Illinois Wednesday.

After the Midwest swing, Obama plans his family’s annual New England trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

The trip is being called an official visit, not a campaign event.

Using a bus is rare for a sitting president. The Hill newspaper says the Secret Service bought armored buses earlier this year for the two major presidential candidates and to be used when there are large numbers of dignitaries to transport.

The tour includes vital states in the 2012 election. Many Midwestern states went mostly Republican in last year’s election, including both chambers of Minnesota’s Legislature turning Republican.

Obama’s trip comes on the heels of Saturday’s Iowa straw poll, which could help clarify the Republican presidential race. It comes a day after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a probable presidential candidate, speaks in northern Iowa.

Obama plans Monday Minnesota visit

President Barack Obama plans a southern Minnesota visit next week as part of a Midwestern rural tour.

The National Journal reports that Obama plans stops in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois as part of a Monday-through-Wednesday bus tour announced earlier. Details for the Minnesota and Illinois visits have not been announced.

After the Midwest swing, Obama plans his family’s annual New England trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

Obama is to be in Minnesota Monday. On Tuesday, the president heads to Peosta, Iowa, where he will hold a rural economic forum at the Northeast Iowa Community College.

The rural trip wraps up in Illinois Wednesday.

The Journal quotes Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney as saying the bus trip is to see “what’s going on in their local economies, what they think Washington can and should do to enhance economic growth, enhance job creation in their parts of the country.”

Carney said that Obama “looks forward to talking to the folks about growing the economy, creating jobs.”

The trip is being called an official visit, not a campaign event.

GOP wants to reverse change

Republican leaders think they can bring in some dollar bills because Minnesotans are tired of change.

At least they are tried of the change that President Barack Obama brought, GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said.

Sutton announced that the party is selling "Change? I’d like mine back" bumper stickers that look a lot like the Obama "Change we can believe in" bumper stickers from a year ago.

"Thousands of Minnesota voters feel duped, betrayed and misled by Obama’s soft, lofty rhetoric and his hard-line, left-wing agenda," Sutton write to fellow Republicans. "Help us remind them that after Obama spent trillions to “stimulate” the economy, America lost another 2.5 million jobs."

The cost of protesting the change? $30.