Minnesota political parties expect a big turnout for the Super Tuesday caucus

ST. PAUL -- More than 250,000 Minnesotans could show up at precinct caucuses Tuesday to pick presidential favorites and make other political decisions.Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party predicts that up to 200,000 could cauc...

ST. PAUL - More than 250,000 Minnesotans could show up at precinct caucuses Tuesday to pick presidential favorites and make other political decisions.
Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party predicts that up to 200,000 could caucus in his party, while Republicans state Chairman Keith Downey also expects a heavy turnout, but could provide no specific prediction. Neither predicts turnouts larger than in 2008, when 285,000 clogged meeting rooms statewide, but they say their 20,000 volunteers are ready for records. Both chairmen said that people new to the process are expected to swell numbers, along with heated presidential races.
Martin recently upped his prediction by 25,000 about how many caucus-goers his party should expect because of the focus on the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race.
“You could logically conclude the nominee or at least the finalists will be decided,” Downey said about Super Tuesday, the day when more national political convention delegates will be selected than any other. As part of Super Tuesday with a dozen other states, Minnesota will play a larger role than most years.
“When you show up and vote on caucus night, you will help determine how many votes for each candidate are earned in Minnesota,” Downey said.
In the past, the GOP offered only a straw poll, but this year Republican and Democratic-Farmer-Laborites’ caucus votes will determine how Minnesota delegates vote at their national conventions.
Democratic and Republican caucuses begin at
7 p.m. Tuesday, with the first order of business voting on presidential candidates. State law says voting must wrap up by 8 p.m.
“March 1 is really the opening of the political season in Minnesota,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said. “The caucus process is an opportunity for people in a town hall setting to really have an impact on who the next president of the United States will be.”
Being a presidential year always attracts more to caucuses, and with no incumbent president running there is still more interest. On top of that, Simon said, more young people than normal appear to be interested.
Then there is the large bloc of delegates available Tuesday, which attracts its own attention. “More eyes than normal will be on Minnesota,” Simon said.
Television commercials, which sometimes only air along the Iowa border, have spread to other parts of Minnesota this year.
With most Super Tuesday states in the South, Simon said that candidates are looking for “bragging rights” by winning Minnesota to show they can win a Midwestern state.
As for youth, Simon said that in his travels around the state he has met with many classes and other youth groups. “There is more energy in the room ... because stakes are so high.”
On the Democratic side, more young Minnesotans involved could help Vermont U.S. Sen. Sanders, who has attracted a youth movement nationally and filled two Minnesota rallies with young people.
Sanders and former Secretary of State Clinton will be on the Democratic presidential ballot, along with Martin O’Malley, who has dropped out of the race, and long-shot candidate Rocky De La Fuetente.
For Republicans, all candidates still in the race will be on the ballot: Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and businessman Donald Trump. Republicans also will be able to write in candidates.
Martin and Downey said competition can help their parties.
In 2008, Martin said, Clinton and Obama fought hard for the nomination, and in the end Democrats benefited.
Clinton and Sanders attended a DFL fundraiser on Feb. 12, and Sanders attracted large crowds to a pair of Minnesota stops earlier.
“Both campaigns are building strong organizations,” Martin said. “They are running neck and neck.”
Clinton has a better Minnesota organization, said Martin, who supports Clinton. However, Sanders has “more organic support” from Minnesotans.
“The question is how does that manifest itself on caucus night,” Martin said of Sanders’ popular support, adding that “organization trumps support” in caucuses.
Of Republican candidates left in the race, Cruz campaigned in Minnesota earlier and Rubio appeared in Minneapolis a week ahead of the caucuses.
Downey said Trump “clearly has the momentum” nationally and Minnesota could add to his string of victories. However, Downey that he sees a movement to other candidates, and the race remains wide open: “None of the candidates is even close to 10 percent” of national convention delegates.
Downey and Martin said they hope that the presidential vote is not the end of the day for caucus-goers. After the vote, those at the caucuses will elect party officials and discuss issues they think the parties should support.

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Minnesota’s 2016 election: How to caucus

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