November 8th 2006 was a pretty depressing day to be a Republican, no matter where you lived.
In Minnesota, though, the news was especially gloomy. In just 4 years the Republicans had managed to turn a huge political windfall—82 seats held in the 134-seat Minnesota House, a near tie in the Minnesota State Senate, and retaking the Governor’s chair after a 4-year hiatus caused by the peculiar victory of Jesse Ventura—into near total electoral disaster.
When the dust cleared the morning of November 8th, Minnesota Democrats (known here as the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, or DFL) held 85 seats in the Minnesota House and 44 in the Minnesota Senate—nearly 2/3rds of each body’s members.
And Tim Pawlenty, once seen as a rising star in the Republican Party barely squeaked back into office against one of the most profoundly flawed and disliked DFLers in the state. Pawlenty survived, but appeared mortally wounded to many political observers around the state. As the sole Republican survivor (Republicans lost control of the Secretary of State and the State Auditor’s seats, as well as control of the House), Pawlenty’s future seemed tied to accommodating the new Democrat reality in Minnesota.
What a difference a few months makes! Governor Pawlenty is riding high, the seemingly invincible DFL majorities are in disarray, and rumors abound about significant leadership changes in both the House and Senate Caucuses.
What made the difference? Two things: the near suicidal arrogance of the DFL majorities in trying to push their agenda through, and the ability of Governor Pawlenty to veto DFL bills while rallying his dispirited troops to stand behind him.
The Democrats did much of the heavy lifting for Governor Pawlenty. They not only proposed a radical agenda ripe for vetoes, they did so while breaking just about every promise they made during the campaign. After promising a modest agenda with few or no new tax increases, the DFLers proposed over $5.5 billion in new taxes, including a proposal to impose the highest tax rate in the nation.
Spending went up even faster under their proposals—not only were they going to gobble up all that new tax revenue, but they were proposing maxing out the state’s credit card with a huge bonding bill filled with pork projects for their members.
Add to these policies the insult of trying to roll back key elements of welfare reform, extend the vote to non-citizens, and provide in-state tuition to illegal aliens.
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