Wednesday, August 11, 2010 By Aaron Brown
Dayton won this thing exactly how people thought he would, with the 8th CD and support from traditional, older DFL voters. The only drama was how close the election would prove to be and how Anderson Kelliher held such a commanding lead early in the reporting. The Iron Range and Duluth, despite my personal loyalties, did exactly what I thought they would -- deliver a several thousand vote margin to Dayton. Anderson Kelliher failed to do what she needed to -- control that margin of defeat by closing the gap in Range towns. Dayton pulled mid-50s in percentages in most of these towns, with Margaret in the 30s. Dayton's share surged to the 70s in some places like Buhl.
Fans of American history will appreciate this. Dayton won Minnesota in the exact fashion that Huey Long won Louisiana in the 1920s -- a near-perfect rural/urban split. With the low (but not too low) turnout, the strength of rural areas was magnified.
Throughout the night I knew the Range would spot Dayton about 4-5,000 votes. When Margaret led by 20,000 as she did early I still believed she would win, but when her margin shrunk to a couple thousand before I went to bed the writing on the wall became obvious. The despair at the Dayton headquarters, followed by the unexpected calm, was entirely justified.
Congratulations to Mark Dayton and his running mate, Duluth's Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon. They had a rural Minnesota plan to win and managed to execute. Congratulations also to the DFL field organization and Margaret's campaign. They seized what was a sure loss and almost pulled off a major upset. Bear in mind, between Dayton and Matt Entenza, Margaret was outspent by $9 million in a primary. She lost by just a few thousand votes. This was undoubtedly Rocky I. People forget Rocky lost in Rocky I.
Now the DFL party will go through an elaborate, probably stilted and needlessly difficult unity dance. That's the way of these things. The third act of this play will begin shortly.