The Independence Party of Minnesota has experienced a noticeable decline in support across Minnesota – as evidenced in its performance last month. This decline is revealed across a number of dimensions and offices, including a decreased ability to field candidates in state legislative races since 2000 (the year it disassociated itself from the national Reform Party).

Support for IP candidates in statewide races declined in 4 of 5 offices from 2002 to 2006: Governor (declining 16.2 to 6.4 percent), Secretary of State (4.5 to 3.0 percent), Attorney General (4.4 to 4.1 percent), and State Auditor (4.8 to 4.6 percent). The Independence Party candidate for US Senator did increase from 2.0 to 3.2 percent, although this was lower than the 5.8 percent the IP received for that race in 2000).

In State House races the number of Independence Party candidates has dropped from 27 in 2000, to 26 in 2002, to 20 in 2004, to just 9 in 2006. These candidates also received the lowest level of support per district in which they ran in 2006 (5.7%), down from 7.4% in 2004, 10.3% in 2002, and 9.9% in 2000.

In the State Senate only 7 Independence Party candidates were on the ballot in 2006 averaging 6.9 percent of the vote per district, less than twice the number of candidates in 2002 (16), in which candidates averaged 12.4 percent of the vote per district.

One bright spot for the Independence Party was its performance in US House races. The IP fielded 3 candidates,
equaling the number on the ballots in 2004 and 2000. Tammy Lee (MN-5) recorded the highest level of voter support for the Party in a US House this decade (21.0 percent).

The Independence Party will retain its major party status in 2008, thanks to Peter Hutchinson’s performance in the race for governor, but the party is facing an increased difficulty in distinguishing itself from the DFL, who appears to be drawing support away from IP candidates.


  1. MinorRipper on December 5, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    Great post, thank you. I’ve written about a possible Bloomberg ’08 candidacy on my blog at I think with his money and smarts–along with the country’s yearning for another alternative to the two party system, it might just work for him.

  2. Peter Tharaldson on December 6, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    I don’t know who is writing this blog but it sure looks like the same vacuous crap that comes out of the U of M. My name is Peter THaraldson. I am the 5th CD Chair of the Independence Party. I have a backgroud in public policy, communications and political science, doing masters degree at Maxwell & Newhouse Schools at Syracuse.

    Completely absent from your analysis of the IP is any fundamental understanding of strategic voting. Political scientists that do care enough to study it, Alverez, Beohmke et al, list the dynamics of it quite well. At the gubernatorial level this year, a major part of you analysis, we had the most ripe strategic voting environment ever, with a tie in the polls when Hutchinson was much lower.

    The often cited “Third Parties in America”, which is the basis of U of M third party study doesn’t even look at strategic voting, something recently criticized at the Kennedy School as being a pretty weak attempt at understanding strategic voting in the US. A much better read can be found in the guys I previously cited.

    Going to the UK next month to talk to strategist there in Lib Dem Party. Also have some cousins very active in NDP in Canada- both center third parties doing quite well in pluralistic winner-take-all elections systems like our own. Your trend analysis from one elections aside, I wish you folks would stop doing silly summary data and start doing a little more sophisticated research. THe fact we survived anti-Bush on everything and actually had our 5th CD Candidate at 21% isn’t too bad.

    Lastly- big big variable you missed which is probably the differential with the Lib Dems and NDP- the excessive PAC money. I am not puritanical on PACS but the pure lack of analysis you have on campaign spending as a variable is ridiculous.

    Peter Tharaldson

  3. Peter Tharaldson on December 6, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    The “crap” I mentioned coming out of the U was the commentary that is really unsupported by reasonable empiricism and is made journalistic soundbites. How can one miss variable like near J curves on campaign expenditures and have a comprehensive view of the world?

    I respect what the center does and what you folks do. But I really really wish you would look at 360 degrees of information before going public with everything. Here are some missing phenomena you could look into:

    growth of independent expenditures in Dems and Republican races.

    Impact of presidential politics on local voting decisions.

    Strategic voting versus sincere voting in Minnesota: the environment and its manifestation

    Shifting Party ID in a polarized landside: the shift one step towards the left for all.

    BTW-you better understand how center third parties differ from those more ideological in strategic voting- there are some really big differences.


  4. Eric Ostermeier on December 7, 2006 at 1:53 am


    You raise several important points in your comments (esp. on campaign spending and strategic voting). However, I think you may be confusing the role of a blog, which I am writing here at Smart Politics, and full academic reports, which appear on our Center’s website.

    The very nature of a blog is such that it cannot facilitate the depth of analsyis of, say, a journal-length report, which, in a study of 3rd parties, would examine many of the causes and effects that you rightly account for in a cursory manner in your comments. I do pride myself on: a) running a non-partisan blog, and b) incorporating analyses into the research topics presented herein. Given the forum of a blog, the amount of analysis that can take place is a much more cursory exercise than what a journal-length report would permit.

    With regards to the posts on third parties in particular, the bulk of my discussion so far in this series at the blog has been to first document that there actually HAS been a decline in third parties in MN (this is the “silly summary data” to which you refer). I think I’ve done that quite thoroughly and persuasively. As your comments do not contradict any of the actual hard data presented herein in this series, I surmise we can at least agree that this is the departure point for future analysis – that there has been a very notcieable decline (across all 3rd parties, not just the IP).

    I was puzzled as to whether or not you were suggesting in your comments that the “Third Parties in America” study to which you refer is the basis for MY findings/research here. I guarantee you it is not. All of my research at Smart Politcs is conducted independently, unless credited otherwise.

    You also mentioned strategic voting, a concept with which I am quite familiar (please see my academic credentials in the bottom right corner of the home page and you can get a good idea of my background). Strategic voting can perhaps account for the decline in support in individual races (though one would need to counter why there was LESS strategic voting in 2000/2002 as compared to 2006, especially in state legislative races), but that concept cannot account for the decline in the number of candidacies per se.

    As blogs are meant to generate discussion, I stand by my entries on third parties. Your reply raises several substantive points worthy of discussion, and I appreciate your comments.

    While you mentioned you were not enamored by my use of short-term trend analyses here at the blog, you should know that district-level trend analyses of just a couple election cycles were integral components to my election projections (see the November 7th and 8th Smart Politics entries for post-election scorecards); so, I would not say that first laying out the data and establishing the facts is an unworthy enterprise.

    I would also like to add that while I cannot and did not endorse any candidates on this site, you should know I consider Tammy Lee to have run an oustanding campaign in MN-05 and that she revealed herself to be the strongest debater in the field.

  5. Peter Tharaldson on December 7, 2006 at 9:20 am

    Fair enough Eric-

    I appreciate your response and understand the blog and its purpose in stimulating debate. You seem like someone willing to look at the big picture. Sorry if I offended.

    Thanks for the compliment on Tammy Lee. Her campaign actually mirrored one LibDem strategy in the UK in dealing with Labour and the Conservatives- that is to target districts with a dominant big party in order to make sure you are one of two candidates.

    If we had another week you would have seen us using strategic voting to our advantage. A proprietary poll just before Halloween had Tammy at 9%. The Survey USA poll finished the week before the election had her at 22%. I suspect that these polls did not see the total Dem anti-Bush surge happening when they were taken (they actually are not as robust as your polling). We think another week and Alan Fine’s support would have fallen- just like it would to a conservative or labour candidate in the UK at the hands of the LibDems in a similar situation. THe problem with that of course is that CD5 is not just a one party dominant district but quite literally a bulkhead.

    One of our biggest obstacles was that the journalists did not cover Tammy at all until about three weeks before the election. One of the problems we had in overcoming this is that many journalists hang onto “Third Parties in America” like it is their bible- with little care about over generalization onto of all things the 5th CD. I almost choked when one journalist told me that many were concerned that Tammy’s wasted votes would hand the election to Alan Fine.

    I don’t think you do this but your blog hit on a sore point. I cannot understand why in grad school we learn not to create grand theories and yet many of the shortcuts taken to arrive at a grand theory are the same things being constructed by political scientists in the news (Steven Schier drives be nuts on this).

    What also troubles me is research bias- not the liberal kind a conservative would scream about, but rather the bias against saying “I don’t know” when it should be said. Rosenstone’s conclusions on an historical pattern of third party candidates fading in the stretch is abased on what really is an n of less than 10. He incorporates Lemke from the 1930’s and throws in a sourthern segregation supporter (Wallace), Anderson (a pure independent) and Perot over a massive timespan. Just out of curiosity I applied Rosenstones methodology to 1990’s and 2000 Minnesota (a methodology I don’t like because he makes trending conclusions inside the MOE). Guess what, in a period of time with a much larger sample than Rosenstones, in a state with a campaign finance system and ballot access laws, it appears that the results are none- There seems to be some that go up, some that go down, and many who stay withing the MOE (I won’t take Rosenstone’s leap here).

    This is what drives me crazy- declarations of relationships (even causality- gasp) are being made on camera to the press that really are pushing it.

    Thanks for reviewing my lengthy note- I appreciate your work and we actually found the Humphrey poll a great relief. I hope that someone here will take up the charge of studying strategic voting in a robust way.


  6. Chris on December 7, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Great conversation. I’m sympathetic to the IP, which was my first involvement in politics after quitting journalism.

    I undestand the strategic-vote concept, but momentum is also important. Heading into 2008 and 2010, the IP doesn’t have a lot of it (save for Lee and Binkowski, should they decide to run again).

    I think the real tragedy of the last 8 years isn’t the party’s failures in gubernatorial races, but rather the inability to get people elected to the Legislature. A handful of seats in the House over the last two years would’ve been huge and given the IP a great impact on the process. That said, I think it’s time for a new strategy that merges the best of both worlds in the best way possible.

  7. Mike Grimes on December 7, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    There is no need for the IP and DFL to merge, as the DFL would have all the power in that situation and make the IP relationship a short term one. Instead they can give us candidates who are civilized and rational, and lessen the motivation for quality IP candidates with DFL ties to run.

    I really question this claim some DFLers have on our candidates as well, as most of them have stronger Republican leanings then Democrat leanings, and only appear like Democrats in there approach. For example even though Tammy Lee, John Binkowski, and Robert Fitzgerald supported the fair tax which the Patty Wetterling campaign shamefully misrepresented the IP candidates were still willing to have an honest and thoughtful discussion on spending issues.

  8. Chris on December 7, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    The fair tax is only fair if you’re not one of the millions of Americans in the lower tax brackets — then it should be called “more taxes.”

    How many people participated in the IP Caucus last spring? I ask for the purpose of establishing how IP members’ participation could affect DFL caucuses. If I remember, the DFL had a record number for a non-presidential year, but the IP had a good year, too.

    Just for fun: What were Peter Hutchinson’s stronger Republican leanings?

    Binkowski’s were more obvious, though on the hot-button issues that define relevance in the GOP (and DFL), Lee, JB and Fitzgerald all seemed closer with their DFL opponent.

  9. Rob on December 8, 2006 at 8:28 am

    Maybe I’m missing something, but are these people supposed to set aside what they actually believe and “position” themselves exactly in the middle between the Reps and Dems? If they did, they’d be guilty of the same confused priorities held by many high-office candidates in those parties…like Pawlenty on taxes and Wetterling on the war. Saying what will get them elected, whatever they think of it.

    Binkowski would be a Republican if forced to choose, Lee a democrat. No doubt about it. Thankfully, they don’t have to choose. There’s a party that invites them to run as themselves, and despite a lot of effort on the part of the bigs, it’s still around.

  10. Mike Grimes on December 9, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    Lets see Hutchinson is completly against corprate welfair, I don’t know if we call that Republican like, but it sure as heck makes him anything but a Democrat. He also leans to the right on education issues. And in general he’s for keeping the price of govrnment down. He simply doesn’t spew lines like no new taxes, but fiscal conservitism is not about talk, it’s about action.

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