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Starting off with the big race of the night, MN-8 DFL primary:
Rick Nolan won the race 38-32-29 over Tarryl Clark and jeff Anderson respectively. Now, this race was closer than I had anticipated it would be, but the dynamics played out more or less how I figured it would. I believe that Clark’s last-minute mud-slinging campaign backed by her cash advantage made the race closer than it otherwise would have been a week or two ago. Here is the breakdown by region:

“Iron Range”

County    J. Anderson    T. Clark    R. Nolan
St. Louis    10,353    5,995      6,914
Aitkin            172            545            698
Carlton    1,070     1,278     1,360
Cook            124            305            544
Lake            487            478           647
Koochiching    166            404            561
Itasca    1,282            1,711            1,844

St. Louis County is by far the largest county to the district, and is home to the Anderson’s home of Duluth, far and away the largest city in the district. St. Louis County also is the heart of the Iron Range, and home to Ely, where Anderson was born and raised. Anderson won St. Louis County, but not nearly by the margin and number of votes that he needed to overcome his weakness (and lack of name recognition) in other parts of the district. One thing of note: I was personally surprised by Anderson’s rather weak performance in Duluth overall. He really needed to win Duluth with 60% of the vote to be competitive in the primary. I thought he could do it, but he didn’t get 60% in any precinct in Duluth, and that doomed his chance. Also, I was surprised by the fact that in some small Iron Range towns, like Babbitt, Anderson won with 70-80% of the vote. That was a huge surprise to me. Never underestimate the Rangers’ desire to back one of their own. Lesson learned.
Cook, Lake, Koochiching, Itasca, Carlton and Aitkin counties round out the rest of the “Range” counties. Rick Nolan won them all by varying margins. Culturally, these areas are generally very similar, with only southern Aitkin County being different. There is a swamp (a big one) between the cities of Aitkin and Hill City that acts as a very distinctive geological, as well as cultural boundary.

“North Woods”

County    J. Anderson    T. Clark    R. Nolan
Kanabec    349            982            534
Pine            368            926            738

Pine and Kanebec Counties are fairly culturally similar to the aforementioned Iron Range counties, but there are no taconite deposits this far south. Electorally, they still vote DFL at the federal level, albeit narrowly, and much less firmly than their northern neighbors (It has always been this way, not a trend). But locally, the Democratic Primaries are still effectively the General Election. Clark did her best in this region, winning both counties.

“The Lakes”

County    J. Anderson    T. Clark    R. Nolan
Crow Wing    396            888         2,537
Cass            188            611            843
Hubbard    152            453        447
Wadena    56            216            286
Beltrami    78            315            301

The Brainerd Lakes region is full of summer resorts and high dollar cabins owned by millionaires in Minneapolis, and around the country. (Tom Cruise’s cabin is on Cross Lake, for example). This area is built around the tourism industry, and is socioeconomically distinct from the iron mining communities to the northeast. Both are stunningly beautiful, and I recommend coming at least once (do it in the summer, if you don’t want to freeze). This area is also the childhood home, and current residence of one Rich Nolan. Now, 40 years ago he lived further south, and represented the old 6th district. After he left Washington, he returned to the area he grew up in, and hasn’t left since. Nolan’s home is in Brainerd itself, which is in Crow Wing County. Expectedly, Nolan won this county 2:1 over Anderson/Clark combined. Nolan also won Cass County and Wadena Count, and Clark narrowly won the corner of Beltrami County (Bemidji) that is in the the 8th, and Hubbard County, the latter by 8 votes over Nolan. In the General Election, having a candidate from Bainerd won’t be the worst thing in the world, as it should neutralize Cravaack’s relative strength in the high dollar Brainerd Lakes region.

“Corn Fields”

County    J. Anderson    T. Clark    R. Nolan
Morrison    160            563        709
Mille Lacs    145            390            435

Now, Morrison County is MUCH more agriculturally-driven than Mille Lacs County. Morrison is a lot more culturally similar to the neighboring 7th congressional district than the 8th, but the line had to be drawn somewhere. Mille Lacs County is partially agricultural, but it is really defined by Mille Lacs Lake and the large casino/reservation on its western shore. Nolan won 50% in Morrison County, which sort of surprised me, as this is as close to St. Cloud as the district gets. And St. Cloud, in Michele Bachmann’s 6th congressional district, is where Tarryl Clark lives. If Clark were to have had a shot, she would have had to have won Morrison County by a huge margin. The same goes for Mille Lacs County, but Nolan won that county as well.

“Exurbs”

County    J. Anderson    T. Clark    R. Nolan
Isanti     165            548        498
Chisago    299            962        994

These counties used to be considered rural, but the housing boom from about 1999-2007 stretched the housing developments out as far as Cambridge (Isanti County). But when the housing market crashed, not only did construction stop it its tracks, these counties started bleeding population. They are blood red electorally, but they are quickly losing influence as ceasing of exurban sprawl has lead to their quick decline. This is Cravaack country, and Democrats have long ignored the area, as they are fairly small, and they won’t vote for a Democrat not named Jeremy Kalin or Amy Klobuchar anyways. Nolan narrowly won Chisago County, and Clark narrowly won Isanti County.

TOTAL:    J. Anderson    T. Clark    R. Nolan
Total            16,010    17,570    20,890
            29%       32%            38%

Overall, this race was closer than it should have been due to last-minute outside spending on attack ads. But Clark really was doomed from the beginning because she has absolutely no base of support within the district, whereas Anderson and Nolan did.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'll admit... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, OGGoldy, RuralLiberal, Vatexia, Mark27

    that when I woke this morning I hoped to see that Anderson had nosed out a victory. I haven't looked at the precinct-level data yet, so I appreciate your observations re Duluth. I'm surprised that Anderson didn't fare better in our fine city, but his campaign was at both financial and institutional disadvantages.

    In the end, Nolan's fine... He should benefit from the increased turnout during a Presidential election to edge out Cravaack, and that's what matters now.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 10:16:52 AM PDT

  •  Nice analysis (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, RuralLiberal, angry marmot

    of the cultural, geographic, and political landscape of the 8th.

    "Above and beyond the question of how to grow the economy there is a legitimate concern about how to grow the quality of our lives." -- Paul Wellstone

    by idlemoments on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 10:28:16 AM PDT

  •  Mixed bag (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RuralLiberal, Vatexia

    If the premise is that Nolan should have won by a larger margin but didn't because of "attack ads" then I think the DFL should be a little alarmed. Cravaack is going to run nothing but attack ads between now and November. Hopefully the real reason this was close was because Clark and Anderson are awfully good candidates in their own right and people were split pretty evenly.

    I never bought the mock outrage over Clark moving into the district. The district line is maybe 25 miles north of St Cloud?? And when you are running against a guy who lives in New Hampshire come on.

    On the positive side, I think Nolan is strong in areas of the 8th that democrats didn't fare well in in 2010. His base is Crow Wing (I think he's from Crosby) and he performed well on the surrounding counties of Aitkin (I would have put this in the North Woods column since its not really a range county), Morrison, Cass, and Mille Lacs. I think if Nolan can cut Cravaack's margin here he wins.

    Thanks for the diary!

    Overall I would have been happy with any of the 3 and hopefully democrats rally around the winner and we put MN-08 back in the blue column!

    •  Thanks for the 2% of a dollar (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RuralLiberal, angry marmot

      A couple things.

      Cravaack will certainly be running attack ads, but there is a difference between that and going nuclear on your primary opponents the week before the primary election because your polls are showing you losing.

      You'd be surprised about the fact that her not being from the district is a BFD. It is not mock outrage at all. She simply was not "one of them", and it showed.

      I agree that Nolan is going to be stronger in areas the Democrats haven't done so well in recently. It wouldn't surprise me to see him carry Crow Wing County, which is a county McCain carried by 8 against Obama, and Coleman won by 9 over Franken. If Nolan wins Crow Wing, the race is already over.

      •  Additionally (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Allen

        Nolan also performed better than I would have expected in the southern part of the district. The fact that he won Chisago County and did well in Isanti really gives Nolan the ability to say he was by far the most competitive candidate in all the diverse areas of the district.

        Clark needed to dominate the southern half but didn't even win in a majority of the counties.

        It certainly was a well earned victory.

  •  So, does this mean .... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Allen

    .... The end of Tarryl Clark's political career?  It seemed so promising when she first signed on to challenge Crazy Michelle, but now she seems to run the risk of being that politician who runs for everything.

    •  She SHOULD (5+ / 0-)

      Have run for her old seat against Pederson. She would have been at least even money against the freshman. And she could have raised her profile back in the senate, and made a statewide run in 2014 or 2018, where i am sure at least one of Otto/Swanson/Ritchie/Dayton/Prettner-Solon will hang it up. She really really screwed up by running for MN-8, and it may well end her political career.

      •  Well, that's unfortunate (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mark27

        She seems like a bright, young candidate who has a whole lot of potential, but really over-reached and made a bad decision here.

      •  Totally Agree (0+ / 0-)

        Clark was a rising star in state politics and ran a very credible campaign against Bachmann. I understand its tough to go back but she was effective on the state level.

        The move into MN-08 obviously made no sense in hindsight. As I said before, I think the issue was overblown but it certainly didn't help her at all and had risk.

        Now she's stuck. She gambled and lost and now is probably destined for lobbying or getting out of politics all together.

      •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OGGoldy, WisJohn

        She could run a write in campaign for Kerry Gauthier's seat that he will be resigning from shortly.

        •  As he rightfully should (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WisJohn, James Allen

          Gay or straight, it doesn't matter. If you're caught banging an underage prostitute at a truck stop, you need to step down.

          Interestingly, I do believe that one Jeff Anderson lives in Gauthier's district. I think he should run for it. It would be a nice consolation prize for him.

  •  Excellent Work..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OGGoldy, James Allen

    I studied the county results and they played out about as I expected.  Hopefully Cass and Crow Wing Counties will present Nolan a little homefield advantage in the general election as they did in the primary....even if it's only a couple of points.  That would make the math even harder for Cravaack if he does.

    •  Crow Wing County (0+ / 0-)

      If Nolan were to keep it even in Crow Wing County, it would make reelection for Cravaack even more difficult than it is now. Cravaack won his election by 4399 votes in 2010, and he won Crow Wing County by 4423 votes. If Nolan can reduce this margin to 0, or even WIN the county, Cravaack is really losing any plausible path to victory.

      •  granted (0+ / 0-)

        what sort of 2010/2012 turnout differences in Duluth should be expected? Would Cravaack's path to victory involve far more playing in that TV market than he did in 2010?

        The Republican Party isn't a party of small government, it's a party of a government for the few. @bhindepmo

        by RBH on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 10:33:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Turnout will be up across the board (0+ / 0-)

          But remember, Duluth and St. Louis County didn't have a huge drop off in voters compared to some other parts of the state. Duluth had a favorite daughter that it had to turn out for to make Lieutenant Governor.

          Cravaak's coalition requires running up massive margins in Morrison, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Mille Lacs and Chisago Counties while trying not to get obliterated in the Iron Range.

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