There is a red tide rising through the political waters in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota, the only state never to vote for President Reagan, is on the verge of transforming from a Democratic playground to a Republican stronghold.

Currently still in the swing-state phase of its political transformation, Minnesota has been blushing for quite some time. The Gopher State has not elected a governor from its Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (affiliated with the national Democrats) since 1986, and the GOP has evened the state’s congressional delegation to four from each party.

DFL Sen. Mark Dayton – heir to the Dayton department store fortune – has had a big “Target” on his back. Previously considered a very vulnerable incumbent, he has declined to run for re-election in 2006. Perhaps his 43 percent approval rating had something to do with that choice, although declining to run is this eccentric lawmaker’s first rational move, since he decided in October to close his Washington offices until after Election Day.

This vacancy is ripe for Republicans to snag, and Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy has already thrown his hat in the ring, attempting to join current Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. Another Republican congressman, Gil Gutknecht, might enter the race as well. Either congressman is in a great position. Gutknecht is well financed and Kennedy is very visible in the Minneapolis suburbs.

Radio host and Minnesotan Al Franken (remember him?) has wisely declined to run in 2006, though he has not ruled out challenging Coleman in 2008.

Enhancing the growing Republican successes in Minnesota is the Democrats’ disunity. Third parties have always enjoyed success in Minnesota – just ask Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Minnesotan votes cast for Ralph Nader almost doubled the national average in both 2000 and 2004, and the DFL mayor of St. Paul endorsed President Bush in the 2004 election.

The DFL party itself is in fact a holdover from a 1944 merger orchestrated by Hubert Humphrey between the Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties.

But now, instead of supplying a Democratic presidential candidate, Minnesota is supplying a Republican one. A recent ABC News article cited Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty making a big splash at the inauguration and noted that major national conservatives are putting Pawlenty on the short list for a 2008 run.

Demographics are also contributing to the Republicans’ success in Minnesota. Growth in the sparsely-populated northeastern counties, where mining has historically been important, is stagnant or negative. This area makes up a large part of the DFL’s support outside the big cities.

In order for a mid-population swing state to be competitive, it must have Democrats in rural areas. Missouri and Nevada continue to prove this fact. Las Vegas, Kansas City and St. Louis are not enough to push Democrats over the top. Both Iowa and Wisconsin have several blue counties outside of their cities, but innesota’s are shrinking, and so are its chances of voting Democratic.

Since rural areas across the country are also dwindling, this alone would not forecast Republican victories. In Minneapolis and St-Paul, however – where Kerry received over 60 percent of the vote – growth is also well below the state’s average. Meanwhile, Rochester, St. Cloud and the Minneapolis suburbs all have booming populations. These are the places that will determine Minnesota’s political future, and they all chose to re-elect President Bush by substantial margins.

The Minnesota GOP has experienced a few setbacks, most recently losing 13 seats in the state house of representatives during the 2004 election. They still retain a slim majority in the chamber, however, and the loss has been blamed on too much attention diverted to the presidential race. Even with this loss, it is clear that Minnesota is no longer a safe blue state.

When Minnesota does start voting for Republican presidential candidates, Wisconsin cannot be far behind. Republicans need only 100,000 more votes in Minnesota and 12,000 more votes next door to swing 20 electoral votes their way. Upcoming Democratic presidential hopefuls are going to find it almost impossible to win without Minnesota, but they’re going to have to wave goodbye to the state.

Soon, the only blue left in the upper Midwest will be the sky-blue water in all those lakes.

Eric Rodawig is a sophomore in the College and can be reached at rodawigthehoya.com. Thoughtcrime appears every other Friday.

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