Editorial: All eyes could (and should) be on MN
Watch Minnesota! And that holds for people who live in Florida, Alaska and other states, too. Because what happens in Minnesota in the next few months could have a big, big impact on the presidential election in 2012. Consider: First, both houses...
And that holds for people who live in Florida, Alaska and other states, too. Because what happens in Minnesota in the next few months could have a big, big impact on the presidential election in 2012.
First, both houses of the Minnesota Legislature flipped to Republican control. Second, the governor's race remains undecided and likely is close enough to trigger a recount.
Third, the Minnesota Constitution provides for the incumbent governor (Republican Tim Pawlenty) to stay on until the race is decided and a new governor takes the oath.
Add it all up, and you've got the potential for a GOP tornado to rip through the Capitol in January, a political storm rivaling Tuesday's Election Day tsunami in force.
That's because if the recount takes months rather than weeks, then Pawlenty still will be governor when the new Republican-led Legislature convenes Jan. 4.
And just imagine what could happen next:
Gov. Pawlenty is a conservative Republican. He has chafed through two terms against the bulwark of the Democratic majorities in the Legislature. Those majorities have rebuffed Pawlenty's "shrink government" efforts and limited him to vetoing tax hikes.
But in January, with Republican majorities in both houses ... majorities that were elected in a conservative groundswell ... and Pawlenty entertaining presidential ambitions, all bets are off.
Might not the governor push through an austerity budget? That would shrink Minnesota's government, balance the state budget through spending cuts and burnish the governor's conservative credentials, all at the same time.
Moreover, even if Democrat Mark Dayton wins the recount and becomes governor, the deed would be done. Given the Legislature's GOP majorities, Dayton would have a hard time rescinding the budget cuts, let alone passing the tax increases that he had campaigned on.
Nor could he affect the civil-service reforms, public-employee pension reforms, teacher-tenure reforms, redistricting reforms and other conservative policies that Pawlenty and Republican lawmakers could enact.
The net result could be a whirlwind of strongly partisan activity, as happened when Democrats in Congress took full advantage of their rare -- and fleeting, as it turned out -- 60-vote Senate majority to pass health care reform.
If you were Tim Pawlenty, wouldn't you like to position yourself for the 2012 Republican presidential primaries in such a dramatic way?
No wonder Minnesota Republican Party chair Tony Sutton was so forceful at his press conference Wednesday morning: "We're not going to get rolled again," he said of the recount.
"We won't be outlawyered. ... We are going to be very, very aggressive through this recount process." The GOP already has hired a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission to lead its recount effort.
Assuming the vote tally remains close enough to trigger a recount, then what a donnybrook it's shaping up to be. And what a fascinating place St. Paul could be in January, as the nation watches conservative Republicans reshape once-famously progressive Minnesota. -- Tom Dennis for the Grand Forks Herald