Despite the characterization that caucus night was a quiet night for Republicans (and DFLers) in some media reports (e.g. MinnPost), Republican turnout nonetheless increased by more than 20 percent since the last time the GOP was searching for its gubernatorial nominee back in 2002.
Eight years ago, just 15,862 Minnesotans cast their vote in the Republican gubernatorial straw poll. On Tuesday night, over 19,150 Gopher State residents voted in a precinct caucus GOP straw poll – an increase of 20.8 percent with 4,118 of 4,129 caucuses reporting as of late Wednesday evening.
The increased turnout occurred despite the fact that the precinct caucuses were held more than 1 month earlier in the election cycle in 2010 and in less pleasant weather conditions. Caucus attendees braved colder temperatures in 2010 than in 2002 and much of the state had just endured a moderate snowstorm, including the densely populated Metro region.
The 2002 caucuses were not held until March 5th, when the average temperature in the Twin Cities, for example, was 20 degrees with a low of 16, with less than one-tenth of an inch of snow falling on caucus day and the day prior.
For the 2010 caucuses held on February 2nd, the average temperature in the Twin Cities was 5 degrees lower at 15, with a low of 8, with 3.1 inches of snow falling on the roads and sidewalks of the metro area on caucus day and the day prior.
Republican caucus voters were also more decisive in their preferences in 2010 – despite having more candidates from which to choose. Less than 2 percent of attendees did not cast their ballot preference for one of the seven gubernatorial hopefuls.
In 2002, however, more than 11 percent of caucus straw poll voters were undecided whether they preferred one of the three candidates – Brian Sullivan, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Vekich.
Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert won a majority of the straw poll votes with just over 50 percent, followed by fellow Representative Tom Emmer at a shade over 39 percent.
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