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By all accounts, Wednesday night’s Trump rally was a major success for Pete Stauber. First, President Trump is wildly popular in the Eighth District. Next, Stauber got a ton of positive attention during the campaign rally. Third and perhaps most importantly, President Trump drew a ton of people to the rally. Check out the people gathered at a parking ramp near the arena:


Stauber’s campaign manager must’ve smiled after seeing that picture. Stauber’s campaign manager must’ve been pleased to see Pete handle the big spotlight this beautifully, too:

That doesn’t guarantee a Stauber victory this fall but it’ll guarantee him tons of favorable press. This report noted something incredible:

At least 25 percent of the audience was under the age of 30, and around 40 percent were women. The senior citizen percentage was less than 10 percent — the lowest I’ve ever seen at a Republican event. Other than the hundred or so party leaders, this was a vastly different crowd from the Minnesota Republican Convention that I attended in Duluth three weeks ago. None of the attendees I spoke with in the concession line at the rally were politically active (other than voting) and none were born-and-bred Republicans.

If that’s the case, then I’m inclined to move this race from the toss-up category to the slightly leans GOP category. That isn’t good news for the DFL because they’ve got 3 top-tier candidates who are beating the daylights out of each other through the mid-August primary.

According to this article, President Trump will make a campaign appearance in Duluth. Also, “the rally will be at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center at 6:30 p.m.” Pete Stauber plans on attending the event. Stauber is the GOP-endorsed candidate for the Eighth Congressional District. Stauber hopes to replace Rick Nolan.

It’s worth noting that “Trump carried [the district] by nearly 16 percentage points in 2016.” Further, “the race for the open 8th District seat is considered a tossup.” Unlike the races in CD-2 and CD-3, this race is an actual toss-up. Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan is getting excited:

“The importance of Minnesota this election cycle — in influencing the balance of power in Washington D.C. for the next two years and ensuring we send the President conservative reinforcements — depends on our ability to Make Minnesota Red,” Carnahan said. “We look forward to the momentum and positive energy his visit will bring to Minnesota Republicans and our opportunities this election cycle.”

President Trump will increase turnout in the Eighth District. His appearance might help cause voters to switch allegiances.

This shouldn’t be seen in a vacuum. Remember that the DFL primaries (gubernatorial and congressional) both pit an environmentalist against a pro-mining candidate. Don’t think that President Trump won’t mention that in his speech.

The last time Trump was in Minnesota was right before the 2016 election. Back then, they said stopping in Minnesota and Wisconsin was “campaign malpractice.” I guess the pundits were wrong that time, too.

I’m semi-stunned with the first polling for the DFL primary in Minnesota’s Eighth District. First, the polling company was “conducted by Victoria Research and Consulting for the Radinovich campaign. The firm, based in Maryland, has worked in Minnesota’s Eighth District since first hired by the late Jim Oberstar in 1992.” Next, “the company interviewed 400 likely DFL primary voters in the Eighth District from May 12-17. Of the five DFLers in the race, Lee had the highest name recognition at 39 percent, while Radinovich was second at 30 percent. Fewer than one-in-four likely primary voters had heard of state Rep. Jason Metsa or North Branch Mayor Kristen Hagen Kennedy.”

That few people had heard of Kristen Hagen-Kennedy isn’t surprising. That few people have heard of Jason Metsa is stunning. He’s a state legislator. He’s been re-elected, too. That isn’t the only bad news for Metsa, though. Here’s more:

The survey considered the candidates support within the district’s two major media markets, Duluth and the Twin Cities. Lee had a clear lead in the Duluth market, with 24 percent support, while Radinovich was second at 18 percent. Metsa finished third with 15 percent support while Kennedy had the backing of just four percent of those polled.

Radinovich holds a clear lead, however, in the southern part of the district, with 17 percent support. Kennedy was in second place at nine percent, while Lee finished third at seven percent. Metsa came in at just two percent support.

In other words, Metsa is tanking outside of his back yard.

Lee represents an interesting dilemma for the DFL. She’s well-known, popular and she opposes copper-nickel mining:

The last thing the DFL needs is for there to be a tough fight between the pro-mining people and the anti-mining activists as their 2 finalists duke it out. That’s what this is shaping up to be at this point. It’s impossible to forget, too, that Leah Phifer won all 10 of the ballots at the DFL CD-8 Convention, though she didn’t win the endorsement. Let’s remember, too, that Rebecca Otto’s only win in the Precinct Caucus straw poll was in CD-8. They might’ve gotten rid of Phifer but they haven’t gotten rid of the environmental activists.

I expect Radinovich to win the primary because there will a significant turnout for the pro-mining Swanson-Nolan gubernatorial ticket in the primary in the Eighth. That shouldn’t be underestimated. However, it wouldn’t be wise to predict a Radinovich victory in November if the Erin-Squared ticket wins the gubernatorial primary. An Erin-Squared victory will likely have a negative effect on turnout in the Eighth District.

With the DFL primaries likely to be contentious, some major rifts have gotten exposed. In his weekly commentary, Harold Hamilton noted that “the DFL is wholly funded, owned, and operated by the wealthy urban elites who hail from about three zip codes in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. These king makers are extremely liberal in their world view and thus support candidates who are extremely liberal in their world view. In short, the DFL establishment these days favors extreme liberals who hail from the urban core.” (Hamilton predicts that Erin Murphy and Keith Ellison will win their primaries and be the DFL’s general election candidates for governor and AG respectively.)

That necessarily means some awfully hurt feelings. As Hamilton said, “Lori Swanson specifically pointed out in her announcement that she was running for governor that she is in favor of gun rights, a hot button topic. Erin Murphy, on the other hand, is a gun grabber and has no regard for the Second Amendment, as does her running mate.”

Anyone that thinks rural DFLers and metro DFLers won’t duke it out over the Second Amendment is kidding themselves. This is one of the existential fights that DFL Chair Ken Martin has tried avoiding for 5+ years. Hamilton noted that “there is a growing schism between the party’s urban, liberal faction and its rural ‘Reagan Democrat’ pragmatic faction.” Here at LFR, I’ve been chronicling that schism for years. It’s inevitable that the divorce happen.

Mitch Berg correctly notes that “It’s pretty clear the DFL is sliding toward Metro-only status. If they lose CD8 and possibly CD1 this year (both are more possible than at any time in years), and with the knowledge that Colin Peterson’s Potemkin seat in CD7 will never be replaced by a Democrat again when he retires), it’ll really be official, even if they someday flip CD3.”

Tonight on Almanac, the 3 DFL gubernatorial candidates did their best to spin the differences between rural issues and metro issues. They failed. Each played nice to a certain degree, though Erin Murphy definitely attacked Walz on the NRA. When rural voters hear that, it’s inevitable that they think the DFL is the party of gun grabbers. What’s clear is that these candidates either don’t understand rural voters or are too busy pandering to city voters.

Murphy and Maye Quade have opposed pipelines and mining. They voted for the buffer strips, too. These positions will alienate rural voters. Amy Koch nails it during the roundtable:

During the Roundtable, Eric Eskola mentioned the Eighth District DFL Primary. They’d run out the environmentalist in that race. Now, 2 more environmentalists have filed to run in the primary. These candidates won’t win but they will keep that fight fresh through August. That isn’t just a disagreement. Potentially, it might turn into a civil war.

If the DFL can’t resolve these major differences, a divorce is inevitable. It’s just a matter of when.

Lori Swanson’s run as Minnesota’s attorney general is all but officially over. According to this article, she’s about to announce that she’s running for governor. According to the article, “Attorney General Lori Swanson, who was rebuffed by party delegates in her bid for reelection at last weekend’s nominating convention, will instead run for governor, Minnesota Lawyer has learned. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, the 8th District congressman who announced in February that he will retire from that seat, will be Swanson’s running mate, according to sources. Swanson will officially make the announcement Monday afternoon. Minnesota Lawyer will attend the announcement and update this report later.”

If you’re in the Twin Cities and you hear 2 women crying uncontrollably, it’s likely Erin-Squared crying because their chances of winning the primary just got vaporized. If you hear shouts of joy, it’s likely Ken Martin rejoicing after begging and pleading all night with them to come to his rescue. I wonder how big the bribe was to pull this ticket together.

I just got off the phone with Mitch Berg, who told me that Erin Murphy has picked Erin Maye Quade to be the Lt. Gov. candidate on her ticket. I told Mitch that nothing says geographical and ideological balance like a pair of gun-grabbing Metrocrats that hate mining. BTW, you’ll want to read Mitch’s upcoming post to hear his perspective on this. Trust me when I tell you that he’s got a perspective that you won’t hear from the Twin Cities media.

Here’s a little background on EMQ: “Quade first rose to prominence in speaking out on sexual harassment at the State Capitol — a #MeToo movement that ultimately led to the resignation of two prominent state legislators. Quade also led a 24-hour sit-in on the floor of the State Capitol in April, calling for a vote on several gun control bills before the session’s end. Quade is the first openly LGBT candidate for statewide office on a ticket endorsed by a major party. At 32, she would also be one of the youngest people to serve in the office.”

In her first gubernatorial-level decision, Murphy failed miserably. The Lt. Gov. must be able to step in as governor if, God forbid, something happens to the governor. Erin Maye Quade fails that test:

Maye Quade is serving her first term in the House and previously worked for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison doing constituent services and organizing for DFL campaigns. She is a lifelong resident of Apple Valley, where she lives with her wife, Alyse, who also organizes for the DFL Party.

Basically, she’s a high profile activist. What’s funny is that Murphy doesn’t admit that this ticket won’t be well-received outside the Twin Cities metro:


Here’s the thing: Erin Murphy hates farmers almost as much as she hates miners, loggers and gun owners. The thought that Murphy and Quade will appeal to more than 12% of rural voters statewide is ridiculous. I’ve got to think that the NRA is chomping at the bit to go after this ticket. In the Eighth, I’m betting that there are tons of DFLers that can’t wait to vote against this ticket. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they vote for one of the GOP tickets.

Ken Martin won’t admit it but he’s got to be afraid of what this ticket would do to the DFL this November.

This LTE highlights what I think is a Range war. It starts by saying “I got a big chuckle out of comments by Governor Mark Dayton (MDN 5/13) ‘Everyone on the Range should know: the state government is on your side.’ In fact, I still can’t stop laughing! His comments remind me of the old adage ‘The Three Biggest Lies: the check is in the mail, of course I’ll still respect you in the morning and I’m from the government…I’m here to help you.'”

One thing comes through clearly in that opening: Rangers don’t trust Gov. Dayton. That should frighten whoever becomes the DFL gubernatorial candidate. Tim Walz’s Lt. Gov. pick is a wild-eyed environmentalist. That’s before considering the fact that Walz was a longtime NRA member who just threw that record overboard to win the endorsement. While she was part of the Executive Council, Rebecca Otto voted against approving a series of exploratory mining leases, then sent out a fundraising letter bragging that she’d stood up to big mining corporations. Finally, Erin Murphy is an unknown quantity in terms of mining policy but who is the most progressive of the 3 DFL finalists. Why would a Ranger trust her on mining issues?

Mark Dayton is a poor little rich kid from Minneapolis whose fortune is invested in trust in South Dakota to escape Minnesota taxes. He is personally and ideologically aligned with the environmental wacko movement and his heart and soul is not with us on the Range.

Dayton will do what he thinks the Range needs, not what the Range knows it needs.

The DFL has literally run the Range into the ground for decades. That isn’t hyperbole. When confronted with the Range’s high unemployment years ago, IRRRB Chairman Tony Sertich said (sorry, I’m paraphrasing here) that that’s been that way for years. The statistics verify that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Republican Party is the new home for construction workers, farmers and miners. The DFL doesn’t understand blue collar workers any more. The DFL has fought and is fighting against new pipeline construction (Sandpiper) or old pipeline (Line 3) replacement.

The DFL has shut its doors to blue collar workers. Their policies haven’t helped the Range in decades. Literally.

Pete Stauber heads into today’s CD-8 Republican convention as the only candidate in the race on the GOP side. Perhaps that’s because he’s an impressive candidate with a strong organization. Perhaps, it’s because his list of endorsements reads like a Who’s Who of Iron Range mayors:

“Enthusiasm is very, very high,” Stauber said. “It’s an inspiration for me as a candidate.” But it’s not the delegate numbers that are most telling at this stage in the race, some seven months away from Election Day. It’s the names Larry Cuffe Jr. of Virginia, Shari Swanson of Buhl, Robert Vlaisavljevich of Eveleth and Andrea Zupancich of Babbitt, the four Range mayors who have endorsed Stauber despite being from a region traditionally known as a stronghold for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

This is still a tough fight for Republicans but it’s worth noting that Eighth District Republicans have flipped a bunch of legislative seats since 2010.

After today’s convention makes him the officially endorsed candidate, Stauber can start his general election campaign. Meanwhile, on the DFL side, a handful of candidates will have to fight things out amongst themselves for the next 3 months.

This must put a smile on Stauber’s face:

But it’s not just Stauber’s position on mining that is winning over some people on the Range, said Cuffe, who admitted to being raised Democrat and voting Democrat most of his life. “I believe in his qualities and values,” Cuffe said of Stauber. “Mining is just a small reason why I support him.”

The Twin Cities DFL is nuts. It’s composed of trust fund babies and environmentalists. Rudy Perpich’s DFL exists only in the history books.

Swanson added she’s less likely to listen to local DFLers even if they are full-tilt for mining. The party, she said, has been co-opted by Twin Cities’ metropolitan values. “It just seems like more and more the power is coming out of the Twin Cities in the DFL Party,” she said. “It’s getting stronger on their side and it’s less friendly with what we do up here.”

This is a fight Stauber can win. If he wins and, as I suspect, Republicans flip Tim Walz’s seat, it could make for a very good night for the Republican Party of Minnesota.

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If Democrats want to have a chance at winning back the US House, they’ll need to prove that they won’t consistently side with Big Environment, aka Big Green. During the Obama administration, Big Mining got the shaft without getting the mining project. Salena Zito’s latest article suggests that Democrats are rebuilding their relationship with Big Labor.

The union voters I talked to said they didn’t feel that Democrats in Washington had their back; that they were too progressive, too strident, and way out of touch with their lives and needs. “I think there were two factors at play with how union members, many union members turned away from the Democratic Party,” said Mike Mikus, a western Pennsylvania Democratic strategist who does campaign work for several unions. One is that they didn’t feel their economic issues needed to be addressed and pretty frankly it was in the Democratic playbook to play to the center meant taking on organized labor rather than any other Democratic constituency,” he said.

I’m not convinced that Democrats have figured it out yet, though. I don’t doubt that some Democrats have made the decision to support mining. That will give those Democrats a fighting chance in some districts. The problem is that they’re still part of a Democratic Party that’s dominated by environmental activists.

The Democratic Party won’t part ways with the environmental activists. The miners still remember this:

or this:

Tom Steyer and Alita Messenger won’t tolerate a significant shift back to mining, which is where most union workers are employed. The other industry where lots of union workers are employed is construction. Democrats still fight tooth-and-nail against pipeline projects. If I ran the NRCC, I’d remind voters in the heartland that Democrats are still funded by environmental activists. As long as that’s the case, labor will get shafted by the Democrats.

Let’s recount the DFL’s Eighth District Convention last Saturday. According to multiple tweets, Leah Phifer got the most votes in each of the 10 rounds of balloting. Still, she didn’t reach the 60% threshold needed to win the DFL’s official endorsement to run for the US House of Representatives. It was considered a fait accompli that Ms. Phifer would run in the August DFL primary. Why wouldn’t she? She was the frontrunner in each of the 10 rounds of balloting.

Late Wednesday night, though, Ms. Phifer dropped a bombshell, announcing that she wouldn’t run in the DFL primary.

In her official statement, Ms. Phifer said “My goal, since first declaring my candidacy in October 2017, has always been to win the DFL endorsement, bring new voices to the table and strengthen the party. A divisive primary season would only serve to weaken the party and distract from the issues affecting the people of the 8th District.”

This doesn’t make any sense. Phifer was the only environmental activist of the 4 candidates that were either considering running in the DFL primary or who had announced that they were running. Further, CD-8 was the only district where Rebecca Otto defeated Tim Walz. Clearly, environmental activists were activated in the Eighth. In a 4-way race, there’s no reason to think that she couldn’t have defeated her opponents.

Considering the fact that DFL Chairman Ken Martin said that a divided DFL that didn’t endorse a candidate couldn’t defeat Pete Stauber and considering the fact that the DFL was a divided shambles Saturday night after they failed to endorse a candidate, isn’t it interesting that they suddenly have 3 pro-mining candidates running in the DFL primary? What are the odds that the frontrunner, the candidate who stood between DFL unity and DFL division, unexpectedly dropped out?

It’s difficult to believe that someone who looked that energized in that picture voluntarily dropped out of the race. I think the more likely question is more nefarious. Which of Ken Martin’s inner circle forced Leah Phifer from the race?

Finally, let’s recall a little history within the CD-8 DFL. Chairman Martin and Congressman Nolan have fought to prevent a fight between the pro-mining faction within the DFL and the pro-environment faction. In fact, they fought that fight for years. Why wouldn’t they fight to prevent it one last time?