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Tags: Minnesota

Another Incumbent Democrat Sees His Big Lead Shrink



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An intriguing late development in Minnesota’s governor’s race:

In the governor’s race, incumbent Democrat Mark Dayton still leads Republican Jeff Johnson 47 percent to 42 percent. Hannah Nicollet of the Independence Party is at 2 percent tied with Libertarian candidate Chris Holbrook. Another 6 percent are either undecided or support other candidates. Dayton [led] by 12 points a month ago and five points two weeks ago.

“Independents often swing elections and Mark Dayton had a lead among independents and that lead is now gone,” says Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute after reviewing our survey data. Independents are often a volatile block of voters. Two weeks ago Dayton led Johnson by six points among independents. Now he trails by 12.

In this cycle we’ve seen a few states where Democrats traditionally win by modest margins — New Mexico, Oregon, and Minnesota — in which early polling showed incumbent Democrats ahead by giant margins . . . and then slowly saw that lead revert to its traditional closer margin. In New Mexico’s Senate race, Allen Weh is getting closer, but still trails outside the margin of error. In Oregon, gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson is also trailing in the recent polls by just outside the margin of error, after trailing by double digits earlier.

In Minnesota, Dayton won in 2010 by four-tenths of a percentage point. In 2006, Republican governor Tim Pawlenty won reelection by a percentage point. So earlier polls showing Dayton winning by 10 to 12 points indicated a big change from usually hard-fought, closely contested elections. (Recall in 2008, Al Franken won the Senate race by 228 votes after a lengthy legal battle and questions about convicted felons voting illegally.)

Making up a 5-point deficit in the final day is a tall order for any candidate. But we shouldn’t be surprised to see a Minnesota result much closer than the polling of spring and summer indicated.

Tags: Minnesota , Oregon , New Mexico , Mark Dayton , Jeff Johnson

Minnesotans Are Casting Ballots Already. Really.



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Happy Election Day Month Season!

In Minnesota, early in-person voting started September 19.

In Vermont, as well.

Absentee-ballot applications are now being accepted in South Dakota.

In Iowa, the number of absentee-ballot requests has doubled.

This site lists the early-voting rules for most states, although it indicates quite a few states have early in-person voting starting September 19, but that doesn’t match the information on the state Secretary of State web sites.

Tags: Minnesota , Early Voting

BOOM: 40 Percent of Minnesota Likely Voters Think Al Franken Deserves Reelection



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Also in today’s Jolt, the headline from a new poll of Minnesota likely voters commissioned by American Encore and conducted by Magellan Strategies:

Only 41 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Sen. Franken, while 45 percent had an unfavorable view of him. Only 44 percent approve of the job he is doing.

• 54% of respondents disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, and only 38% approve.

• Only 40% of respondents think Al Franken deserves re-election.

Obviously, Minnesota is not easy territory for Republicans, and very few folks had this race on even the broadest target list for 2014. But maybe he’s not quite good enough, not quite smart enough, and doggone it, people just don’t like him enough.

Among the survey’s other findings:

• Among all respondents, in order, 50% think freedom of speech is the most important, followed by 25% for freedom of religion, 6% for freedom of the press, 4% for the right to assemble, and 3% for the right to petition.

• The voter mood does not bode well for incumbents, with only 31% thinking the country is heading in the right direction and 60% feeling things are on  the wrong track.

The results were based on a statewide automated voice recorded and live cell phone interview survey of 1,081 likely 2014 Minnesota general election voters.

“Given that Senator Franken is now publicly attacking those exercising their free speech rights, it’s significant that Minnesotans rank this freedom so highly. This poll underscores the importance of standing up for free speech and holding those like Senator Franken accountable for their actions in attempting to destroy it,” said American Encore President Sean Noble.

You may have seen American Encore’s debut video, pointing out how the recent use of the IRS to target groups based upon their political views runs afoul of the First Amendment and America’s most fundamental values . . . featuring a certain Minnesota senator, as well:

Tags: Al Franken , Minnesota

Minnesota: We Need Another $12.5 Million for Exchange Repairs



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In addition to the Oregon news below, Minnesota is finding it will end up spending a lot more on its exchange . . . 

MNsure wants to spend an additional $12.5 million this year to continue repairs to its website and call center, officials said Wednesday, as they unveiled plans for a balanced budget in 2015.

Operations this year are being funded by federal grants — Minnesota has received about $150 million from the federal government to create the MNsure exchange . . . 

So far, about 115,000 Minnesotans have used MNsure and are in the process of obtaining health insurance coverage. The tally includes about 82,000 who are enrolling in public health insurance programs and about 33,000 signing up for commercial health insurance.

Nearly six months, 33,000 signups. This is another one of those state exchanges that didn’t work on the launch date:

Some people were locked out of their applications, while others struggled to find out if they were eligible for financial assistance. MNsure didn’t play well with certain web browsers, and many users were confronted with frozen screens. MNsure officials would have known about many of these problems if they had tested the site with consumers prior to Oct. 1.

The state has spent about $100 million so far on creating its exchange. State officials had expected MNsure to enroll up to 1.3 million people for insurance by 2016 . . . an increasingly unlikely goal.

Again, this is all occurring under a Democratic governor, so the usual implausible excuse that “Republican obstructionism” is at fault simply doesn’t apply here.

When Gov. Mark Dayton took office in 2011 he charged ahead, in part by setting up an exchange task force.

Problems, though, were already taking root.

The group wasn’t thinking deeply enough about the technological nuts and bolts of the project, and that the same was true of the state employees leading the effort, said task force member Dannette Coleman, chief for individual and family business for the Medica health plan.

One cannot help but wonder if the governor looked hard at the looming problems of the exchange, or whether he just averted his eyes because he was so invested, politically and emotionally, in the notion that they had to work.

A slew of Minnesota Republicans are running for governor this year: special-education teacher Rob Farnsworth, business executive Scott Honour, Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson, former state representative Marty Seifert, state senator Dave Thompson, and former state representative Kurt Zellers.

Tags: Obamacare , Minnesota , Mark Dayton

The Week So Far: A Dagwood Sandwich of Bad News for Obamacare



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Today’s Morning Jolt is just a Dagwood sandwich of bad news for Obamacare, piled higher and higher:

A Bad Day, Even by the Standards of Obamacare’s Bad Days

President Obama probably can’t wait to get away on that 17–day vacation. Because Obamacare just continues to careen from “success” to “success”:

Some frustrated consumers are sending premium payments to insurers who have never heard of them. Others say they will pass up federal subsidies and pay full price through insurers, while still others have given up altogether on the promise of health insurance by Jan. 1.

Consternation and confusion over applications sent through the federal HealthCare.gov website continue into the last seven days before the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline. Consumers with health issues are particularly nervous about the prospect of not having insurance at the start of the new year. Federal assurances last week about a “special enrollment period” for people whose applications have been hung up on the site are little comfort as neither insurers nor consumers have any idea how this will work and who will qualify.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends people call its help line with questions and concerns about applications on HealthCare.gov. But that suggestion is also proving less than helpful for many.

. . . “Logic tells you I’m the target population for the law,” said Nelson, a Lombard, Ill., resident and Affordable Care Act supporter. But when people seek help from the call center, “you’re just being shuffled back and forth nobody owns the callers.”

Experts are divided on another possible solution for those hanging in the balance: sending premium payments before bills arrive from insurers.

Sentara Health, which offers the Optima health insurance plans for Virginia on HealthCare,gov, is hanging onto payments it can’t match with new customers yet. But Aetna warns that consumers should wait until they get a bill in the mail before writing any checks.

That’s a heck of a strategy for getting insurance: “Pay and pray.”

Oh, hey, more bad information on the sites, too:

In the latest round of difficulties with Obamacare in Wisconsin, plans offered by at least three insurers temporarily disappeared from the online insurance marketplace last week.

Before they came off the federal HealthCare.gov website for about a day, some of the plans from one company posted incorrect information about deductibles, according to the insurer.

Oh, hey, more sudden resignations of state directors:

MNsure’s top official resigned Tuesday following a Watchdog Minnesota Bureau report that she took a two-week Costa Rica vacation in late November, during the rocky rollout of the state $150 million health insurance exchange.

April Todd-Malmlov‘s abrupt resignation came during a closed emergency session of the agency’s board of directors. Subsequent reports revealed that Todd-Malmlov was accompanied on her tropical getaway by Jim Golden, Minnesota’s Medicaid director, raising possible conflict of interest and other concerns.

Oh, hey, more broken promises of imminent fixes:

Private health insurance exchanges still are not able to directly enroll consumers in subsidized health plans offered through Obamacare even though the government has said problems doing so should have been cleared up weeks ago.

Executives from three online health exchanges that contract with both insurance companies and government agencies to enroll consumers eligible for federal subsidies in marketplace plans say the process still isn’t ready to go and that more work remains.

This despite several promises from government officials that technical fixes have been made to allow for business to be conducted on those sites, which are alternatives to the troubled HealthCare.gov website and health exchanges sites run by states.

And Maryland may have to scrap its state exchange entirely:

The pace of enrollments is still far too low. If the exchange is able to replicate its best weekday and weekend performance during every one of the 104 days between now and the end of the open enrollment period on March 31, Maryland will still only achieve about three-quarters of its goal of signing up 150,000 people with private coverage. The site may be better, but better isn’t good enough.

Under those circumstances, the question raised by Rep. John Delaney, a Montgomery County Democrat, about whether it would be better for Maryland to scrap its effort to build its own exchange and instead join the federal one has merit. Indeed, Gov. Martin O’Malley acknowledged on Monday that the option — and all others — remain on the table.

That’s a hard possibility for Governor O’Malley to acknowledge. Under his leadership, Maryland was one of the most aggressive states in the effort to build out its own exchange — a strategic decision that appears in retrospect to have involved no small amount of hubris and political ambition. Walking away now from all that effort and tens of millions in expenditures would be particularly embarrassing.

But other than all that, Obamacare had an okay Tuesday.

Nah, I’m just kidding. There’s more bad news.

Tags: Obamacare , Maryland , Minnesota

California: We Won’t Reveal Enrollment Numbers Until Mid-November



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The exchanges and navigators aren’t failing everywhere . . . but there are enough places where the rollout is simply disastrous. Here’s Minnesota:

Southside community worker, Miguel Rivera, who MNsure certified to provide help as a so-called “navigator” only last week said that confusion about the Affordable Care Act championed by the president is common among the people he sees.

As a MNsure navigator, Rivera can help if they can’t manage alone. But when the five-hour clinic ended, he hadn’t signed up anyone for a plan on MNsure.

. . . and here’s Maryland:

Four weeks since it began selling health insurance on the state’s new marketplace for the uninsured, Evergreen Health Cooperative Inc. has signed up only five people.

That’s a long way from the nonprofit health insurance provider’s first-year goal of 15,000 people, so Evergreen is already shifting focus.

. . . and here’s California, suddenly announcing the state won’t reveal the number of enrollees at the end of the month, as many expected:

Peter Lee, the head of the state’s new health insurance exchange, said Monday that he will not reveal how many Californians have enrolled in health plans until mid-November.

Tags: Obamacare , Minnesota , Maryland , California

The Obama Minnesota Efforts: Aimed to Save Wisconsin?



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A reader points out that several of Minnesota’s radio and television markets extend into the western edge of Wisconsin — so Jill Biden’s campaign stops in Minnesota this weekend may be part of an Obama campaign effort to shore up Wisconsin, rather than reflecting any internal concern about Minnesota.

This map of radio markets from Arbitron indicates that Duluth’s radio market extends into Douglas County, and Minneapolis–St. Paul’s radio market extends into St. Croix and Pierce Counties.

Jill Biden’s tentative schedule:

Minnesota may not be considered a swing state when it comes to the presidential race, but Duluth and Minneapolis will get a touch of national politics this weekend.

Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will make a campaign swing through Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, with a stop in Duluth on Saturday afternoon.

She will thank Obama campaign volunteers, said Kristin Sosanie, the state communications director for the Obama campaign.

“There a good organization up there,” Sosanie said.

The second lady is expected to arrive at the Duluth Labor Temple, 2002 London Road, at 2 p.m. Saturday to also encourage people to keep canvassing voters for the Nov. 6 election. She has a similar morning event in Minneapolis.

“We’re trying to make sure turnout is high,” Sosanie said.

Biden will begin her trip Friday in northern Iowa. She will go to a fundraiser in Minneapolis on Friday night and then a campaign office Saturday morning. Plans for Wisconsin stops Sunday and Monday are pending.

Tags: Barack Obama , Jill Biden , Minnesota , Wisconsin

Are You Ready for Some Non-Binding Action?



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Whoohoo! Non-binding caucuses! Non-binding primaries! Can you smell the excitement?!

Today in Colorado!

Tuesday 7 February 2012: Precinct Caucuses meet in each precinct to choose delegates to the County Assemblies and District Conventions.

There is no formal system applied in the Precinct Caucus to relate the presidential preference of the participants to the choice of the precinct’s delegates to the Colorado County Assemblies and District Conventions; however, a non-binding Presidential Preference poll of the delegates will be conducted. (NOTE: It is the District Conventions and the State Convention that will actually pledge Republican National Convention delegates to presidential contenders).

Since no National Convention delegates are bound to Presidential contenders, the Precinct Caucuses do not violate the RNC’s Tuesday 6 March 2012 timing rule.

Today in Minnesota!

Tuesday 7 February 2012: Republican Party Precinct Caucuses meet to choose the precinct’s delegates to the BPOU [="Basic Political Organization Unit" (the next higher tier: County, State Senate District or State House District)] Convention. There will also be a non-binding straw poll re: Presidential Preference held in coordination with these Precinct Caucuses. (NOTE: It is the later Congressional District and State Conventions that will actually elect Republican National Convention delegates).

There is no formal system applied in the Precinct Caucuses to relate the presidential preference of the Caucus participants to the choice of the precinct’s delegates to the Republican Convention of the BPOU [which may be a County, State Senate District or State House District] in which the precinct is located. The participants at each Precinct Caucus alone determine if presidential preference is to be a factor in such choice and, if so, how it is to be applied.

Today in Missouri!

Missouri Republican non-binding Primary. Today’s primary has no effect on delegate allocation.

Also note that today’s Missouri ballot will feature Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul . . . but no Newt Gingrich.

This is going to make for a pulse-pounding, dramatic wrap-up piece tomorrow morning!

Tags: Colorado , Minnesota , Missouri

Delegates at Stake Tomorrow: Zero. No, Really.



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The good folks at the Republican National Committee send along word about what is really at stake in tomorrow’s caucuses . . . which is . . . not that much:

To:       Political Reporters

From:  Sean Spicer, RNC Communications Directors

Subj:   Reporting on Delegates for Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri

For those of you covering the race for the GOP presidential nomination and writing about the current delegate count, please keep in mind that no delegates will be awarded tomorrow.

Colorado is a non-binding precinct caucus. Their 36 delegates will be chosen at district conventions held between March 31 – April 13, 2012, and at the state convention on April 14, 2012.

Minnesota is a non-binding precinct caucus. Their 40 delegates will be chosen at district conventions held between April 14 – 21, 2012, and at a state convention on May 5, 2012. Delegates are not bound unless the state convention passes a resolution to bind the delegates.

Missouri will hold a primary tomorrow that is not recognized as being a part of any delegate allocation or selection process. A precinct caucus will be held on 3/17/2012 to begin the process of choosing their 52 delegates which will be chosen at district conventions on April 21, 2012, and a state convention on June 2, 2012. Candidates for delegate must state a presidential preference at the time of nomination and will be bound to support that candidate for one ballot at the national convention.

Right now, Mitt Romney has 73 delegates, Newt Gingrich has 29, Ron Paul has 8, and Rick Santorum has 3. Another 30 are currently unbound.

(Remember, Iowa awards its delegates based on the results of the state convention.)

Tags: Colorado , Minnesota , Missouri , RNC

This State Owes the Rest of the Country for Ventura and Franken



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One of the few states where I didn’t see a good, competitive, interesting House race on my list of 99 was Minnesota. The incumbents all look pretty solid, and most of the challengers are extraordinarily short on cash. (Example: Democratic Rep. Tim Walz’s cash-on-hand: about $595,000. GOP challenger Allen Quist’s: about $18,000.)

But perhaps something will shake out:

Six months before Election Day, Minnesota’s Republicans appear to be gaining strength.

A new poll shows that in this onetime Democratic stronghold, the parties are at near parity.

The SurveyUSA poll, commissioned by KSTP-TV, found that 36 percent of likely voters identify themselves as Republicans, while 35 percent say they’re Democrats. Twenty-four percent call themselves independents.

Given the poll’s 4.1 percent margin of sampling error, that’s a statistical tossup between Republicans and Democrats.

By means of comparison, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll conducted a year ago found that 37 percent of Minnesotans called themselves independents, 36 percent said they were Democrats and 20 percent identified themselves as Republicans.

The poll found the biggest impact on the gubernatorial race:

The SurveyUSA poll also found that Republican gubernatorial endorsee Tom Emmer is ahead of his three DFL rivals, although the significance of the results is hard to gauge this early in the campaign. In matchup against Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza, Emmer was supported by 41 percent of likely voters. The DFLers were each backed by about one-third, while Independence Party candidate Tom Horner was supported by about 10 percent.

If Tim Pawlenty has any aspirations for the presidency, he probably doesn’t want a Democrat taking the reins after him. He can ask Mitt Romney what it’s like to have a Democratic successor manage your signature domestic policy proposal.

Tags: Minnesota

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