Minnesota Political Briefs: Caucus night begins at 7 p.m.Minnesota News
-- Precinct caucuses will be held across Minnesota tonight and a lot of attention will be focused on the Republican presidential contenders.
Precinct caucuses will be held across Minnesota tonight and a lot of attention will be focused on the Republican presidential contenders.
Mitt Romney handily won the Minnesota caucuses in 2008, analysts say as the conservative alternative to the eventual nominee, John McCain. Romney's challengers are hoping caucus-goers choose them this time around as the conservative alternative to Romney -- most notably Rick Santorum, who had a surprise victory in last month's Iowa caucuses, has not won another state since, but also narrowly beat Romney in a poll released over the weekend in Minnesota. The top four Republican contenders have all given Minnesota some attention in the past week. Romney was here last Wednesday -- the biggest time gap between a candidate's campaign stop and the caucuses.
We are not likely to set any attendance records at tomorrow night's Minnesota precinct caucuses. Political watchers say Republicans will draw the biggest numbers because of the party's hotly-contested presidential campaign. Otherwise, caucus night should be pretty much the low-turnout affair it usually is. Former state GOP Chairman Chuck Slocum says five or six percent of eligible voters in 1972 is the most caucus-goers Minnesota has ever had. There was also a huge turnout in 2008. Slocum says precinct caucuses represent grass-roots Democracy at its best. He says that although candidate votes are non-binding, the numbers give an indication which candidates have the best organizations.
Minnesota got visits from three of the four top Republican presidential hopefuls just before today's precinct caucuses. Rick Santorum was in Rochester Monday morning, Ron Paul was in St. Cloud in the afternoon and in Minneapolis in the evening -- and Newt Gingrich spoke in Bloomington last night. Frontrunner Mitt Romney is not visiting Minnesota this time around.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum made one more stop in Minnesota before tonight's precinct caucuses. The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania is holding a campaign rally this afternoon at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Santorum visited Rochester yesterday and Bemidji and the Twin Cities on Sunday. The latest Public Policy Polling survey showed Santorum with a 33-24 percent lead over Mitt Romney in Minnesota.
GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich spoke to supporters in Bloomington last night. The former U.S. House speaker says the big question is whether we want an election that involves real change on a large scale - or whether we want an election fighting over who's going to manage the decay. Gingrich says frontrunner Mitt Romney doesn't present enough change from the Obama administration.
One of the most conservative members of the Minnesota Senate is backing Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination. Senator Dave Thompson of Lakeville will emcee Santorum's rally this afternoon in Blaine (3 p.m.). Thompson says it's fair to call Santorum the conservative alternative to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney. He adds that Governor Romney would be a far superior choice to President Obama if he becomes the eventual GOP nominee. He's hoping that a lot of people turn out today to hear more about Senator Santorum's message.
Religious leaders from across the state are urging lawmakers to keep the proposed photo ID amendment off the November ballot. They say the measure is an effort to place barriers in front of law-abiding citizens' constitutional right to vote. The group will voice its opposition during a news conference this morning at the Capitol. Hundreds of interfaith leaders have signed a letter which will be delivered to House and Senate leaders and sponsors of the bill. Supporters claim requiring a photo ID at the polls is needed to prevent voter fraud.