By Mark Fischenich
Free Press Staff Writer
The email from the Democratic National Committee Tuesday night was titled “Race in Minnesota Not Remotely Close” and referenced a new KSTP/Survey USA poll showing President Barack Obama with 50 percent support and Republican Mitt Romney with 43 percent.
That confidence didn’t seem to reach the Obama campaign, which Friday night announced that former President Bill Clinton would be campaigning in St. Cloud today — just two days before Election Day. Romney running mate Paul Ryan is also scheduled to be in Minneapolis for a rally today.
Real Clear Politics, which tracks and averages polling in the presidential race and others, shows Obama leading 49.3 to 44.3 for Romney in Minnesota — a bit closer than Obama’s 5.4 percent lead in Wisconsin, which has been listed among the battleground states in the tight contest for the White House.
Clinton’s visit to St. Cloud is also aimed at giving a boost to Democratic congressional candidate Jim Graves, who is attempting to unseat Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. That race is listed as “leans Republican” by Real Clear Politics.
The state’s only congressional toss-up race is the 8th District campaign in northeastern Minnesota between Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack and Democratic challenger Rick Nolan, according to RCP.
No polls for the 1st District race have been made public, although Republican challenger Allen Quist of St. Peter claims that internal polling shows he’s within striking distance of three-term Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Mankato. RCP, however, lists the race as “safe Democratic” — just like the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Kurt Bills. RCP’s poll average shows Klobuchar leading by 32 percentage points.
The website, by the way, suggests Republicans are in a good position to retain control of the U.S. House but that the battle for the Senate majority could make for some interesting television Tuesday night. RCP’s U.S. Senate map shows Democrats with 45 seats, Republicans with 43 and 12 that are toss-ups.
Election night options
People looking to watch the returns with a partisan crowd might want to be in downtown Mankato. Local Democrats will be at the Walz Victory Party at the City Center Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) and Republicans are congregating just three blocks away for the Quist Victory Party at Mankato Place (in the banquet space across from BW3.)
Watonwan County voters will have a less raucous option. Trinity Lutheran Church in Madelia is hosting their annual Election Day Supper from 4:30-7 p.m. The menu includes ham loaf, rolls, a vegetable, relishes, dessert and beverages.
Legislative money race
Democrat Kevin Labenz — running against nine-term incumbent state Rep. Bob Gunther of Fairmont — has predicted political observers will be surprised when the votes are counted Tuesday night in District 23A, which includes parts of Watonwan and Faribault counties.
No Democrat has received more than 38.4 percent of the vote running against Gunther, but Labenz probably already surprised some people when campaign finance reports were released last week. The 30-year-old pork industry worker from Welcome had raised more than $24,000 for his campaign, topping the $20,000 raised by Gunther, a retired grocer.
Gunther, with nearly $12,000 in the bank when the fundraising started, was in a much stronger position to spend big in the last days of the campaign. He had more than $15,000 in cash on hand on Oct. 22 compared to about $6,300 for Labenz.
Other area legislative races show a bigger gap in fundraising.
Mankato Democratic Rep. Kathy Brynaert — entering the race with $15,000 in the bank — raised $12,055 compared to $8,443 for Republican Thad Shunkwiler of Mankato.
And Republican Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont, whose district includes most of Blue Earth County outside of Mankato and Eagle Lake, had a $21,000 head start in her race against Democrat Paul Marquardt of rural Eagle Lake. Rosen raised more than $47,000 and has nearly $39,000 on hand even after spending just under $30,000 on the campaign. Marquardt has raised $15,374 and had $1,214 left as of Oct. 22.
In the battle of Wasecans for an open House seat to replace Democratic Rep. Kory Kath, who didn’t seek re-election, Republican John Petersburg raised more than $25,000 compared to $18,000 for Craig Brenden.
Hot Senate races
Two closely contested open Senate seats — which have been targeted by state Republican and Democratic groups battling for control of the Senate — show tight money races.
The seat that includes Waseca has Democrat Vicki Jensen of Owatonna just barely in the fundraising lead with $32,000. Owatonna Republican Vern Swedin raised $30,700.
And the Senate seat that includes most of Le Sueur County was approaching $100,000 in combined fundraising by former Democratic Sen. Kevin Dahle of Northfield and Republican Mike Dudley of New Prague. As of Oct. 22, Dudley had raised $50,300 and Dahle had topped $48,900.
Wilf weighs in
No big surprises in the last-minute fundraising in the Walz-Quist race, but there were a couple of interesting donations. Federal Elections Commission reports show Zygmunt Wilf of Springfield New Jersey (Employer: Minnesota Vikings. Occupation: Owner) gave $2,500 to Walz on Oct. 29.
Quist received $2,400 from the Bachmann for Congress campaign and another $7,400 from Bachmann’s leadership PAC. Quist is a friend of Bachmann, and his wife and campaign manager Julie Quist was once Bachmann’s district director.
Wilf, more commonly known as Zygi, was a bipartisan contributor, by the way. He gave $250 to Rosen for her state Senate campaign, as did Mark Wilf and Leonard Wilf. Rosen was the chief sponsor of the legislation to build a new $975 million stadium for the Vikings in downtown Minneapolis with the state contributing $348 million.