I'm late to the party on ruminating about what happened, both good and bad, in the MNGOP 2014 elections. But I learned in the Army that no training exercise or real life operation is complete until you have dissected it for the Mission, Sustains and Improves.
Mission- 2014 for the MNGOP was 4 separated but related ops; the US Senate, the Governor's mansion, the constitutional officers, and the MN House. Our goal was to be successful in all four ops, but in reality that was never a likely outcome. The US Senate seat was dependent on the candidate and whether or not outside money came rolling in. The governor seat was dependent on the candidate. The constitutional offices were more dependent on the opposition, as in whether or not they made gaffes that would give our guys a chance. And finally the MN House was dependent on the HRCC efforts as well as the individual candidates. While total victory was the hope, the fallback defensive position was always the MN House-if we lost everything else, winning the House would allow the MNGOP a check on total DFL control of state government.
Sustains- The party did several things very well. Among them;
-A massive statewide GOTV effort that was paid for in advance. The party reacted to the brand new dynamic of early absentee voting by agressively educating and courting those votes, laying the groundwork for repeat efforts in future elections.
-Winning the primary with our endorsed candidates. It is easy to forget that in early August, victory for our endorsed candidates was very much up in the air. The party contacted and turned out enough voters to easily secure a win for the candidates endorsed by the delegates in May. While much debate will ensue about the endorsement process, the fact is that if Johnson and/or McFadden had failed to secure the primary win, the endorsement process (as well as the MN GOP party as a whole) would have been in a shambles for the entire rest of the election.
-Moving forward on the plan to retire and manage the long term debt of the party. Thanks to the party leadership of 2010, the MNGOP has been handicapped with debt that has been a continuing drain on our resources. Despite the temptation to let the debt slide and spend away in the 2014 cycle, the current leaders of the party held firm against the very 'irrational exuberance' that crippled us in 2010.
Improves- Areas we need to do better on;
-Minority outreach. The results of the constitutional officers makes one thing abundantly clear, and that is the work done by Dan Severson to sell the conservative message to Somali, Latino and Asian communities paid dividends. Not enough to eak out a win, but enough to prove that the path to
statewide victory runs through the minority communities that Republicans need to reach out to.
-Voter ID. The Dems conduct voter ID on a continuous basis, making use of their base constituencies. The USPS mail carriers union, for example, delivers your mail, and knows who gets the NRA vs who is reading SEIU Quarterly Update. They use their base to populate the spreadsheet of voter information. The MNGOP needs to find out natural base groups that have knowledge they can share with our Voter ID system.
-Countering the ABM. We bitch and complain about their ethics, but the truth is the ABM is effecting real change in our elections. The MNGOP made good strides towards helping outside groups push our message, but we are still nowhere near their level of saturation. We as conservatives need to find and agree on a single solution to the ABM threat, and get behind it fully.
The bottom line of 2014 is that the MNGOP held a losing hand. Saddled with leftover debt from four years ago, facing an incumbant governor, US Senator, and consitutional officers, and handicapped by a 3 or 4 to 1 spending advantage, we realistically should have expected to lose across the board. Like an underdog football team who plans for victory, we cannot be surprised by the reality of the outcome. Consider it this way-the Denver Broncos had a game plan for beating the Seattle Seahawks in the last Superbowl. Nontheless, they lost 43-8.
Retaking the House fulfilled our minimum threshold for victory. Not a bad acheivement for a party that was given up for dead after the 2012 elections.