The Corner

What’s the Matter with Minnesota?

Nothing, as far as I can tell, but something seems to be wrong with Minnesota Republicans. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, one of the GOP’s rising stars, is facing a real challenge for re-election. Mark Kennedy is, in some polls, down 21 points against Democrat Amy Klobuchar in the race for the Senate seat Republican Mark Dayton is vacating. And Michele Bachmann is having trouble in the race to succeed Rep. Kennedy. Minnesota was one of the most famous purple states, and Republicans just a few years ago thought they might make it light red. So what has happened?

Pawlenty’s internal polls have him back up, so some Republican strategists are attributing his weak polls earlier to a party-wide depression induced by the Foley scandal. Bachmann’s opponent Patty Wetterling got a particular boost from that scandal, since the protection of children is her signature issue (and seemingly the only one she knows anything about). Kennedy, meanwhile, may have been spoiled by the GOP’s efforts to clear the primary field for him. Klobuchar got publicity, honed her message, and established her persona by fighting a real primary campaign, and she got credit when she won it. Kennedy didn’t, and he started the race with a disadvantage. In addition, of course, it’s a bad year for Republicans, which means that states that might have swung GOP in a good year won’t. I’d bet that Republicans win two of the three races: Bachmann, Pawlenty, but not Kennedy. And Sen. Klobuchar will have that seat as long as she wants it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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