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Opinion - Minnesota matters -- and it's just super!

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DULUTH - There were long lines and traffic jams -- even in Duluth. There was confusion, from trying to find the right precinct caucus classroom in a school building to figuring out what a proposed party resolution was supposed to mean. And there was the grass-roots unorthodoxy of official ballots improvised out of strips of copier paper, and a ballot box constructed from a diaper box.

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But you know what? It all meant something, and it worked. Last night, for the first time in recent memory, Minnesota mattered in a preliminary presidential contest.

That's not to say the Democratic-Farmer-Labor delegates or nonbinding Republican beauty contest votes were enough to give any candidate the lead as his or her party's apparent standard-bearer. The ups and downs marking the 2008 race since New Hampshire bucked Iowa continued last night, with Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama counting big wins on the Democratic side, and Obama getting the Gopher State nod. And though the GOP column was dominated nationally by Sen. John McCain, it wasn't enough to end a three-man race with a resurgent former Gov. Mike Huckabee and a dogged former Gov. Mitt Romney, whose surprises included Minnesota. It's not over yet.

And that's because, believe it or not, this time the system is working. For years, pundits and average voters have lamented the primary process as unrepresentative of the country, with undue influence wielded by the early small states. In response, numerous states, including Minnesota, moved their primaries and caucuses forward on the electoral calendar, a solution that some worried would continue to frustrate true representation.

"Primaries were not intended to be an arms race," Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, said last year after introducing a tripartisan measure with Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., to reform the primaries and caucuses by alternating the states that would go first in each presidential cycle.

"We seek to give order to this chaotic, messy and unrepresentative process," she continued. "This schedule gives power and influence back to the voters in every state."

Maybe it would, but this year, the voters are taking it back by themselves. And it's working.

-- Duluth News Tribune

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