Thursday, September 28, 2006

Observing Fall Colors

I just spent the last week traversing portions of the First District looking at the colors. Now, the meteorologist may think that it is too early, but the political scientist knows that this is the time to get a sense of the political landscape. The lawn signs are out and for the past twelve years, I have observed plenty of patriotic-inspired signs - blue with white lettering and a red ribbon. But, this year a new color scheme can be seen -- maize letters on an azure blue background and, when appropriate, a hint of white lettering. Rather refreshing – straightforward without being patronizing.

During the course of my travels ( somewhat following the DM&E tracks), I observed the expected (Gutknecht in New Ulm), the slightly surprising (Walz in St. Peter), the encouraging (Walz in Waseca) and the disappointing (Walz in Winona). With some of the letters to the Editor in the Winona papers over the past nine months, I expected to see a warm reception from Winona, but it was not evident.

Lawn signs are a good indicator – if someone is willing to put a sign in the yard and accept the verbal slams from their neighbors, they’re pretty committed. Some yards had multiple candidates while others only had one, but I get a sense when someone has a Dem or Republican sign that they will most likely vote for that party’s candidate in the Congressional election.

Jesse Ventura may have thought he “shocked the world”, but I wasn’t shocked. As I traveled the state, you could see it in the people’s eyes who displayed bumper stickers and lawn signs, that Ventura would win easily. They were committed voters.

On one college campus, I saw two students talking and one was carrying a lawn sign for a State Senate candidate. I asked how he thought his candidate would fare in November. He went on to extol that “the Democrats have got a message this year and they’re gonna win.” I asked, “So what’s the main challenge?” He responded telling me about the Republican candidate. I had to tell him that he was wrong as the Republican candidate could get 30-40 % of the registered voters in the district and win the election. He looked at me with a funny look wondering how that was possible. I explained the main challenge is Apathy. The real goal is not only to get the Democratic vote out but also to convince the 20-30 % that they have a real opportunity to shape this election.

Committed voters are what counts, not poll numbers. Polls express an opinion and provide candidates with talking points that voters want to hear. The recent SEIU poll should only be a guide to voter awareness of who the candidates are. Without knowing how the poll questions were asked, it is impossible to interpret the results. The fact that Walz did so well is encouraging, but the key is to get the Apathy Vote. September polls mean nothing, the only poll that counts is on November 7th.

So, get a lawn sign and convert a neighbor.
Oh, and by the way, I noticed that the trees are just changing now with maximum viewing over the next weeks.

No comments: