by T.W. Budig – ECM Capitol reporter
“Nobody saw it coming,” said Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, a 14-year veteran of the House, of Republicans losing the legislature, a congressman and the two amendments.
“I was surprised,” said Jeff Johnson of Plymouth, Minnesota Republican National committeeman and Hennepin County Commissioner. “Honestly, I don’t know (what happened),” he said of the shellacking.
What happened, for sure, was Republicans had a bad night.
After languishing for some 40 years under a Democratic majority in the Senate, Senate Republicans two years ago seized control in the Republican-wave election and spoke of a new era.
But the era was more of an interlude.
Republican Senate election casualties include area senators Pam Wolfe (Spring Lake Park), Ted Daley (Eagan), Benjamin Kruse (Champlin-Brooklyn Park-Coon Rapids) and Ted Lillie (Woodbury-Lake Elmo).
In the House, the list of the Republican fallen includes King Banaian (Sherburne County), Diane Anderson (Eagan) and Doug Wardlow (Eagan).
“I don’t think it was a lack of work ethic,” said Johnson.
“Our candidates didn’t leave anything out there. And it wasn’t a lack of enthusiasm,” Johnson said.
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, points to the presidential race as a source of loss of Republican steam.
“This time the October surprise was a hurricane,” Kiffmeyer said, blaming Hurricane Sandy for sapping the momentum of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Kiffmeyer, who carried the photo ID amendment in the House, believes in regard to the failed amendments, photo ID and the marriage amendment, it wasn’t the case of doing one amendment when they should have done the other.
“I don’t think it would have made any difference at all,” Kiffmeyer said.
But Abeler views several things revolving around the amendments that could have added to Republican misfortunes.
For one thing, the marriage amendment invigorated college students in a way President Barack Obama was no longer doing.
“It was something to rally around,” Abeler said.
Beyond this, Abeler wonders whether Republican leaders asked enough questions from the groups who wanted to see the amendments on the ballot.
For instance, did someone inquire into whether photo ID supporters had the financial means to counter attacks on the amendment, such as from former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, they should have known were coming.
As for the marriage amendment, Abeler doesn’t believe Minnesota churches backed the amendment to the same degree that churches in other states did.
But rather than seeing House Republicans marking the minority years in lines scratched on the House chamber wall, Abeler argues the House could reverse back in two years.
“Absolutely,” he said.
“I presume the DFL will overreach,” Abeler said.
Rather than muse on Senate sex scandals, Abeler believes voters by next election will be thinking about DFL tax increases, perhaps same-sex marriage legislation, other social issues.
“They’re (Democrats) going to have the same problems with the left that we had with the right,” Abeler said.
Johnson, too, believes Republicans can bounce back.
“I think we can,” he said.
But Republicans first need to analyze what they’re doing, he explained.
Do they need to reshape their message, or reshape how the message is delivered? he asked.
And the party must reestablish its finances.
And this can be achieved, Johnson said.
For her part, Kiffmeyer indicated that she has no intentions of abandoning photo ID.
“I’ll take the governor at his word,” Kiffmeyer said.
“‘Governor, let’s fix it then,’” she said of a crafting a bipartisan photo ID legislation.
But Republicans were caught off-guard by yesterday’s results.
“I think the planets all lined up,” Abeler said with a weak laugh.
“Everything that could go bad went bad,” he said.