Minnesota DFLers and Republican legislative candidates launched an all-out effort Wednesday to frame the political debate on their own terms, turning to their best lines of attack while trying to ignore the opposition.
Republicans focused on MNsure, while the DFL talked about GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
A Republican-leaning group rolled out a significant statewide TV advertising campaign using a farm family to hit the DFL for the state's flagging individual health insurance market and MNsure, the state website where people began buying their health plans Tuesday.
The DFL, meanwhile, held a midday news conference with two legislators and a group of women voters who said Republican legislators have failed a character test by aligning themselves with Trump, despite his bragging about groping women and issuing insults directed at women, minorities, the disabled and veterans.
"As a Latina woman, mother, grandmother and decent human being, I will do everything in my power to make sure my community not only rejects the hatred of Donald Trump, but also local [GOP] candidates for Minnesota House and Senate who would rather join forces with Trump than stand up to hatred and bigotry," said Anna Angeles-Farris, an Apple Valley school custodian.
With the election just days away and tens of thousands of voters casting their ballots early this week, Republicans and the DFL sought to use the media — both paid and free — to drive home their message.
The furious finish matches the stakes: Divided government has stymied initiatives of both parties at the State Capitol the past two years. GOP lawmakers held the line on state spending but were ultimately unable to win tax cuts they wanted, while Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL Senate could not achieve universal preschool or a major transportation package backed by a higher gas tax.
The DFL needs seven seats to take the House; Republicans need six seats to take the Senate.
The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, a GOP-leaning outside group that was instrumental in helping Republicans take the House in 2014, is spending more than $500,000 on its statewide TV advertisement featuring a family of four whose health insurances premiums will hit $40,000 per year, they say in the ad.
The MNsure open enrollment period began Tuesday with a rocky start, including technical problems at the website, long wait times and a politically charged claim by Dayton that the MNsure call center was intentionally flooded with robocalls in an act of sabotage.
Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, announced that House Republicans launched a website — www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cmte/comment — to gather feedback from Minnesotans experiencing issues with MNsure, including premium increases, limited access to plans, wait times and other technical problems issues to the website or call center.
"MNsure must be held accountable to those it serves," said Anderson, who is being challenged in her west suburban district by Ginny Klevorn in a race the DFL is targeting as a possible pickup opportunity. Anderson has said she is not supporting Trump.
The DFL believes suburban voters disgusted with Trump will hurt the entire GOP ticket; they say 98 percent of GOP legislative candidates have announced their intentions to vote for him. House DFLers launched a website — sideswithtrump.com — and a digital ad campaign highlighting the theme. DFL-leaning Alliance for a Better Minnesota is running a similar campaign, though on cable TV.