FiveThirtyEight, a political analysis website, has given Gov. Tim Walz has an 87 percent chance of winning the November election. Other political rating websites like Walz’s have similar chances.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the race as “leans Democratic”. Inside Elections rates it in the “Solid Democratic” column. However, an update to the ratings will be due within days. It could also change. The Cook Political Report ranks it as a potentially close race but still “Likely Democratic.”
These strong indicators for Walz are surprising to some given close polling. A MinnPost poll last month found Walz slightly ahead presumptive Republican nominee Scott Jensen but within the margins of error. There are also perceived political headwinds facing Democrats. Midterm elections are often difficult for the party in power. Inflation and a possible pending recession aren’t likely to help.
We talked to political observers about Walz’s chances of reelection and what could happen between now and Election Day.
Walz will likely be facing Jensen in November. Jensen is a Chaska-based medical doctor who previously served one term as a senator for Minnesota. Jensen will be on the general election ballot. Jensen was nominated by the party at the state Republican Convention earlier in the year and is highly favored to win the party’s nomination for the August primary.
Also likely on the ballot are third-party candidates, including from the Independence-Alliance party and the state’s two marijuana legalization parties, who are very unlikely to be competitive as far as winning the race, but could win some share of votes.
Jensen is not a newcomer to politics, but it is unlikely that he will have the same name recognition with the general electorate as Walz. There is also the issue of incumbent advantage.
“It just doesn’t happen very often.” span style=”font weight: 400 Based on historical trends, incumbent governors can be very difficult to defeat,” stated Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst and reporter with Inside Elections. It just doesn’t happen very often .”
Walz has been campaigning from October. This has allowed him to build a substantial money advantage over Jensen.
According to Kyle Kondik, Sabato’s Crystal Ball managing editor, the power of incumbency has declined over time. However, this is not true for sitting governors.
Kondik stated that span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>” I think it’s still a bit more valuable for sitting governors.
Although the political winds can often cause down-ballot results, Rubashkin stated that governors are sometimes more resilient to these effects than other officeholders.
Rubashkin stated that the ability to create their own gravity politically can sometimes allow them to be protected from the national environment. That’s how we end with Democratic governors of Louisiana and Kentucky, and Republican governors of Massachusetts and Maryland .”
Rubashkin stated, “In 2010, which was by and large a poor year for Democrats due to the ushering-in of the Tea Party,” that Mark Dayton won a close race with Tom Emmer by less than 9,000 votes. In 2010, which was undoubtedly a worse year for Democrats at the national level, Dayton won reelection with a margin of 5.6 points.
Rubashkin believes that Walz and the other sitting governors have been more visible in recent years. The pandemic made people more aware of the role governors play in their lives.
Walz has an incumbency advantage. He also has the state’s political history on his side. While Republicans have held the Minnesota House and Senate frequently, there has not been a Republican elected to the state’s statewide office since 2006. Tim Pawlenty was elected to his second term. In 2016, President Donald Trump was within 1.5 percentage points of winning Minnesota, but he didn’t win the state. Biden won Minnesota in 2020 by approximately 7 percentage points. Both of Minnesota’s senators were elected statewide.
Much has changed since 2006 , with the metro becoming more Democratic while Greater Minnesota becomes increasingly Republican.
In June , MinnPost surveyed the suburbs of the metro area and found that Jensen and Walz were statistically tied.
The National Environment
Despite Minnesota’s political history and incumbency advantage, Walz faces challenges to reelection. RealClearPolitics has the race as a toss up.
Although there hasn’t been much polling, the latest MinnPost’s found Jensen ahead, but within the margins of error.
Then there’s the national climate. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which is based at the University of Virginia changed Minnesota’s governor’s race rating months ago from “likely Democratic to “leans Democratic”. Kondik stated that the decision was based on “the political environment, which seemed worse for Democrats at that time and, I believe, remains poor span>
Politicians are often blamed or credited for what’s happening at the national level, according to Chris Chapp (a St. Olaf College political science professor).
Over time, election nationalization has increased. In this election, however, the biggest national issue that could have ripple-down effects is economics: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported high inflation in June and many are afraid of attempts to control it.
With a Democrat at the White House , and one who is under water on approval – the economic climate likely gives Republicans an advantage.
Chapp stated that Biden would be the one to blame and that Tim Walz would also be blamed.
It’s possible that Minnesota could experience major changes in November, despite the favorable forecasts for Walz.
Kondik stated that it was possible for Minnesota to have a Republican trifecta next year. “The Republicans could win the Senate, the House, and the governorship. That would have implications for many different issues, including abortion .”
The question of abortion
Although the fundamentals seem to be very bad for Democrats, there could be a non-trivial impact on the November election.
Although most voters don’t pay much attention to issues, Chapp stated that while it isn’t common for them to pay too much attention to these issues — usually, it’s mostly the economy — there’s reason to believe that the situation with abortion could be different.
In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (U.S. Supreme Court), Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Court. This decision removed federal protection for abortion and gave states the responsibility of regulating abortions. The court’s decision has significant implications for governor elections across the country.
This is less true in Minnesota where the state Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is legal. The legislature still has the ability to regulate abortion, could pass more restrictive measures around the issue, and governor can sign or veto such bills. Governor Mark Dayton, for example, vetoed numerous abortion restriction bills. Mark Dayton vetoed numerous abortion restriction bills.
MinnPost poll showed that Minnesotans are generally supportive of abortion. 67 percent said they were against a complete ban.
It’s too soon to know if the issue of abortion will motivate Democrats to vote. Midterm turnout is usually lower than in the past.
Rubashkin stated that “We are still in this stage of uncertainty, where we’re just beginning to get back data after a fully-post-[Dobbs] time period, and voters still internalize and digest what is a very important change in policy across America,”