An analysis of granular, precinct-level results of the 2016 election is making the rounds, and I got a look at some of the data from a DFL source.
The analysis should scare the DFL as it tries to put together a legislative governing majority. But it offers no comfort to Republicans who have not won a statewide election since then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty was narrowly re-elected in 2006 with 47 percent of the vote.
To wit: Greater Minnesota turnout in 2016 was higher than expected by 30,000 voters, while in the Twin Cities, suburbs and exurbs it was 40,000 fewer than expected. So, total turnout was about what they thought, but for the DFL the composition of the total was bad news. More Greater Minnesota voters and fewer city voters are bad for the DFL, because its base is the cities.
The 2016 legislative results — in which the Republican House majority expanded by five seats while the Senate flipped from DFL to GOP control — felt transformative, and the data backs it up. According to the analysis, going into the 2016 election, there were 68 of 134 House districts with a Republican lean vs. 65 DFL districts. Now: 73 House districts with a GOP lean vs. 61 DFL. This shows the uphill climb for the DFL next year, with many greater Minnesota seats that will be very tough to wrest from Republican hands. In the Senate, it’s now 36 Senate districts with a GOP lean vs. 31 DFL.
Still, the DFL has an advantage in statewide races. President Donald Trump nearly won, but his vote total was no better than Mitt Romney’s four years earlier. The Democrats fielded a badly underperforming presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton, but she still won. This would seem to illustrate the challenge for any Republican statewide candidate.
So, why is the DFL so weak in the Legislature if it is so strong in statewide contests? Because, DFL voters are all packed into a smaller set of districts clustered in the cities. If the party’s activists really want to change the direction of state government, they should move to Greater Minnesota, or at least a far-flung suburb.
The DFL analysis also offers a clue about another mystery: How important was the increase in health insurance premiums announced right before the 2016 election? Data show Google searches about health insurance spiked when the rate increases were announced, beating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on that day — indicating that yes, health care rate hikes were a top issue.