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Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, a candidate for Minnesota governor, says on Wednesday that a Republican upset in Massachusetts shows that voters are looking for politicians who will make progress. (Don Davis/St. Paul Bureau)

Politicial parties disagree on midterm effects after Massachusetts election

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FARGO -- Republicans regionally and nationwide are rallying around Tuesday's Massachusetts U.S. Senate election, hailing it as a direct indication of what's coming in November's midterm elections.

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Democrats disagree, yet concede there are lessons to be learned from the upset victory by Republican Scott Brown in a state that historically fell definitively on the liberal side.

In North Dakota, at least, Democratic-NPL Party leaders said they believe the Massachusetts race will have "little to no effect" on heated U.S. House and Senate races.

"It gets back to: All politics are local," Democratic-NPL Executive Director Joe Aronson said. "That Massachusetts race was decided on issues that are local to Massachusetts, just like the North Dakota race is going to be decided on issues that are specific to North Dakota."

National Republicans said the Massachusetts race was a pseudo-referendum on health care reform and so could certainly hurt incumbent Democrats in November, including North Dakota Rep. Earl Pomeroy.

"This result should serve as a stark warning for Earl Pomeroy and other Democrat lap dogs that have supported Nancy Pelosi's government-run health care overhaul: Your seat is no longer safe," the National Republican Congressional Committee said in a statement.

Pomeroy's office echoed his state party's stance that Tuesday's special election won't affect his race, and shot down the NRCC's criticism.

"It doesn't affect it at all," said Melanie Rhinehart Van Tassell, Pomeroy's legislative director. "Congressman Pomeroy has always been an independent voice standing up for North Dakota, and nothing has changed."

In Minnesota, the impact of the Massachusetts Republican victory could slice either way.

Top politicians, when they stepped away from mere rhetoric, said the Massachusetts vote combined with other Republican victories since Democrat Barack Obama took the presidency one year ago could help either side.

For Democrats, the GOP victories could serve as a wake-up call. For Republicans, the relatively minor wins could inspire them to donate more time and money to their candidates.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, thought to be preparing a 2012 run against Obama, classified Tuesday's Republican win as "like a cannon shot across the country."

Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton predicted Republican victories this fall, but urged his party not to take things for granted.

"We have to make sure, if we are to be the beneficiaries of this politically, that we deliver," he said.

Jim Danielson, a longtime political observer and retired political science professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead, said Tuesday's Massachusetts election is "not a good sign" for the Democrats - especially if the economy doesn't turn around by summertime.

"(The state of the economy is) the major factor that affects the outcome of nearly every election in American history," Danielson told WDAY Radio. "If the economy turns around in some rapid sense, it will perhaps help to defend some of the likely Democratic losers in the fall, but if the economy continues to slug along at a relatively slow growth rate, then the Democrats are in a position of losing a significant proportion of their majority in the House ... and losing another three (or) four seats in the Senate."

Regardless of the political fallout, some North Dakota and Minnesota Democratic leaders acknowledged there are lessons to be learned from the upset in Massachusetts.

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, a Minnesota DFL governor candidate, said Tuesday's result wasn't defined by partisanship but achievement of results.

"Those who are given the opportunity to lead need to lead and do so successfully," Dayton said. "If they don't, the public is going to speak out and go in another direction."

Sutton actually agreed with Dayton.

"People are just sick and tired of things not getting done," he said.

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