While the “House of Cards” Supreme Court confirmation drama consumes Washington, D.C., people in Minnesota are focused on what candidates are saying about health care, according to a check of Google Trends. The company’s huge store of data about what people are searching for shows health care as the leading election-related issue Minnesotans, and it’s not even close.

In Cottonwood, Redwood, Lyon and Cass counties, immigration is the most searched-for issue, while abortion and tariffs lead in a handful of other greater Minnesota counties. But everywhere else, health care is foremost on voters’ minds, which is consistent with the finding of the recent Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota poll, in which one-fourth of respondents said health care is the most important issue to them.

Who wins on health care? Democrats have been on the defensive on health care for nearly a decade since the passage of the health law, especially in 2016 in Minnesota when premiums were skyrocketing and Gov. Mark Dayton memorably said the Affordable Care Act isn’t affordable for everybody. The market has stabilized here, but will Minnesota House Republicans get credit from the voters for putting reinsurance in place?

And will Republicans pay a price for the failed effort to dismantle the ACA and take away some of the protections the law put in place? It’s unclear what a winning message is on health care. It’s complicated. But this data would seem to show candidates ought to be talking about it — a lot.

Calling a bluff

The gamesmanship between U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and challenger Dean Phillips continues to impress. Paulsen’s campaign manager John-Paul Yates recently asked Phillips if the campaign could use his coffee shop to film an ad: “I am writing to request the use of the Linden Hills Penny’s Coffee shop to film a political commercial. We are more than willing to pay whatever fee was charged of other political campaigns to shoot at Penny’s Coffee shop.”

The subtext here is that Paulsen has continued to hit Phillips for not offering employee health insurance when the shop opened. Phillips called that bluff, responding:

“Thank you for your inquiry about using Penny’s coffee shop ... Coincidentally, I too am running for Congress, and I operate my campaign the same as Penny’s; by offering accessibility, radical hospitality, a fun environment to which everyone’s invited, livable wages, and a health care plan for all full-time employees. We would be happy to host you at Penny’s to film your commercial for congressman Paulsen free of charge. I’ll also commit to being onsite to ensure the experience exceeds your expectations.”

Key backing

State Sen. Karin Housley got a stamp of approval from Great America PAC, which is President Donald Trump’s super PAC and is spending $100,000 on TV in her race against U.S. Sen. Tina Smith. This will not ease the anxieties of some Democrats I’ve heard from about this race.


J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican patrick.coolican@startribune.com