MANKATO — In the 2010 general election, only a razor-thin victory in the governor’s race by Mark Dayton kept Republicans from taking complete control of Minnesota state government.
Two years later, Minnesota voters put the Republican Party on the sidelines — giving Dayton the chance to work with a Democratic House and Senate in the Legislature, re-electing Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar by a landslide and giving five of the state’s eight congressional seats to Democrats.
In a victory speech on Election Night at Mankato’s City Center Hotel, Congressman Tim Walz said Republicans had promised in the 2010 campaign to focus on jobs. They got sidetracked, the Mankato Democrat said.
Instead of concentrating on creating more jobs for the American people, they were obsessed with obtaining just a single job — the U.S. presidency.
“And they couldn’t even get that one,” Walz thundered as hundreds of south-central Minnesota Democrats erupted in cheers.
After a series of wave elections nationally (huge wins for Democrats in 2006 and 2008, a momentous victory for Republicans in 2010), this year’s election wasn’t expected to lopsidedly favor one party or the other. At the federal level, that turned out to be true. Barack Obama’s re-election was the big news on Nov. 6 and Republicans failed badly in their attempt to take control of the U.S. Senate, but the GOP held the strong majority in the U.S. House the party had gained in 2010.
Minnesota was a different story — an undeniably disastrous election for Republicans, particularly in the Mankato area. After gaining control of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in nearly four decades in 2010 (and coming within a half-percentage point of winning the governor’s office, too), the Minnesota Republican Party nearly imploded this year.
A sex scandal in the state Senate forced Republicans to pick a new majority leader just before the new year and the state Republican Party was deeply in debt and in disarray.