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GOP Hopes to Swing Minnesota for McCain

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GOP Hopes to Swing Minnesota for McCain

GOP Hopes to Swing Minnesota for McCain

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. If you're searching for one of the presidential candidates, best to look in a swing state, some place where they've got a real fight on their hands. We're going to hear about one of those states today, Minnesota.

Among swing states, it's not one of the usual suspects, like Ohio or Michigan or Florida. In 2000 and 2004, Minnesota went for the Democrat, Al Gore and then John Kerry, but by very slim margins.

So looking ahead to November 2008, we're going to talk now with the two men who head up the state party operations.

NORRIS: First, we go to Ron Carey. He's the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, and he joins us now from St. Paul. Welcome to the program.

Mr. RON CAREY (Chairman, Republican Party of Minnesota): Thank you for letting me join you and your listeners.

NORRIS: Now, Barack Obama's support, as I understand, has fallen to its lowest mark against John McCain in months. Help us understand what's going on there.

Mr. CAREY: Well, this is something - I guess I describe Barack Obama as basically being like a sugar high. It really - you know, it tastes good, and you feel like wonderful for a while, but the sugar high is starting to wear off, and reality is setting in, and people are taking a much closer look at Barack Obama and his policies, not Barack Obama, the feel-good candidate, and people don't feel as good when they look at the specifics of what an Obama presidency would look like.

NORRIS: If John McCain tries to take advantage of this situation and continue this trend, the candidates spend a certain amount of time in all the states. They run ads in the states, but they really depend on the party to sort of keep the enthusiasm level high when they're not in the state. So help me understand what you're doing, what the party organization is doing, to try to build support for John McCain.

Mr. CAREY: We worked with the McCain organization in Minnesota to build an 87-county organization where we have McCain leaders who are talking to volunteers every single day. We've opened up what we call victory offices, where volunteers come and use the latest technology to make phone calls to identify voters who are potential McCain votes.

Politics is a lot of work, and we're a very grass-roots-oriented state where you're going to have a lot of thousands of people out contacting voters, either door to door or via phone, putting signs up and distributing literature, and it's, really, the team that wants it the most does have an inherent advantage, and I'm seeing the enthusiasm built quite dramatically for John McCain in the last few weeks.

NORRIS: The governor of Minnesota is reportedly on the short list of possible vice-presidential candidates for John McCain. How will that make a difference if he is chosen?

Mr. CAREY: Well, it certainly would make a difference in Minnesota because there's - one of the reasons that Minnesota hasn't gone Republican since 1972 is because in 1984, 49 states went for the re-election of Ronald Reagan, the one exception being Minnesota, and the reason we did is that we had a favorite son, Walter Mondale, running on the Democrat ticket, and it showed me that Minnesotans have a sense of pride and loyalty to their own favorite sons.

So if Tim Pawlenty were to be selected, he would be an excellent choice. But if he were selected by John McCain, that would certainly, I think, give us a bump.

NORRIS: Where's the real battleground, the Twin Cities, the suburbs, or the rural areas?

Mr. CAREY: Well, it's going to be interesting. We have a different dynamic going on here that overlays our presidential race, and that's called Al Franken. And Mr. Franken has had a difficult time selling himself to the average Minnesotan.

So the Democrats in the state have - there actually are an increasing number of Democrats who are refusing to be associated with Al Franken, and I think he could end up being a drag on the entire Democrat ticket here, including Barack Obama.

I was also surprised to see in the same polling that it's a tied race in the Twin Cities metro area, which is where you would think Obama would do very, very well because you have the urban core, where would be his strength, and yet, overall, in the metropolitan area, it's a dead heat.

So that's where I'm cautiously optimistic that, for the first time since 1972, Minnesota's going to be in the Republican column come November 4th.

NORRIS: You know, George Bush said that too.

Mr. CAREY: Well, it was - we fell short by a few percent in 2004 in the presidential race, but I look at the fact that John Kerry came to Minnesota the day before the election and had to spend his time, which is his most precious resource, campaigning here instead of campaigning in Ohio.

Sometimes, even when you fall short in your state, it's a broader - you're helping the broader team, and that's helpful for the broader Republican effort.

NORRIS: Ron Carey is the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. CAREY: I really appreciate the chance to chat with you and your listeners.

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