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Our View: Some surprising conclusions

A few conclusions can be drawn from Tuesday's primary -- but not the usual ones made by the politically obsessed that the low turnout means too many of us don't care as much as we should.

A few conclusions can be drawn from Tuesday's primary -- but not the usual ones made by the politically obsessed that the low turnout means too many of us don't care as much as we should.
First and foremost, it does not appear that the current third-party movements in Minnesota are going anywhere. With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, the four candidates for the Independence Party -- the party of our governor -- had 5,593 participants in their U.S. Senate primary. Two years ago, running unopposed in the primary, the governor received 17,169 votes, more than three times as many.
This suggests a couple of things. First, that the governor is spending more time selling his own books than he is selling his own party. Second, that the Independence Party candidate James Gibson will not be a major factor in November.
Minnesota's newest "major" party is in even worse shape. The Constitution Party's two Senate candidates gathered only 1,463 votes between them. At that rate, the party will not be a "major" party for long.
Gov. Jesse Ventura acts like a governor most of the time and talks like a governor most of the time, but the one thing he has had little time for is building his party. He spent a half day at the State Fair with Gibson, but if the governor wants to have any lasting impact on the state, he needs to get some other members of his party elected. Otherwise, his party will quickly be reduced to a personality cult.
The second major conclusion is that money does not count for much. This is contrary to the popular conclusion that the DFL-endorsed Jerry Janezich lost because he lacked money to get his message out. The truth is that Janezich's message was not that different from the other DFLers. Members of his own party first endorsed him, then did little to finance him, and finally buried him with a "can''t win in November" label.
If money were the only factor in an election, then neither Paul Wellstone nor Ventura would have ever been elected. Both were badly outspent in their first runs for senator and governor respectively.
Another reason to conclude money does not count for much is that the cost per vote in the DFL primary had to have been the highest in history. The three millionaire candidates, Mark Dayton, Mike Ciresi and Rebecca Yanisch pushed the overall cost of their primary to around $12 million, and yet only 430,066 DFLers turned out, 64,000 fewer than voted in the 1998 DFL gubernatorial primary.
The third conclusion is more obvious and not new: the endorsement system is a futile exercise that needs to be replaced. Both the Republicans and the DFL have fallen behind the times in terms of supporting their endorsed slates. In 1994, Rod Grams was the only Republican of a half dozen statewide endorsed candidates to survive the primary. This year, as mentioned above, DFLer Janezich floundered as did the 8th Congressional District GOP-endorsed candidate, Bob Lemen.
If the parties can't or won't provide more support for the endorsees, then they need to adopt a new system, either with multiple endorsements or simply an open primary with no endorsement at all.
We expect the turnout to increase sharply for the general election as usual. The differences between the two parties are far greater than the internal differences exhibited in the primary campaigns. Tuesday's vote indicates that this primary did not mean much to most Minnesotans.

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