Tuesday’s Vote Just a Beginning

Posted January 30, 2008 at 6:35pm

It’s not a primary. It’s not a straw poll either.

It’s a caucus — but it’s not like the ones in Iowa or Nevada.

In an electoral tradition dating back to the 1950s, Gopher State partisan voters will caucus on Tuesday evening — about one month earlier than usual — as Minnesota joins more than 20 other states in picking their presidential candidates on Super Tuesday.

But while Feb. 5 is when Minnesotans will pass judgment on the surviving White House candidates, it is only the first step in a series of three conventions before the Democratic- Farmer-Labor nominating convention in early June, which could affect the outcome of the Senate race and House elections. Republicans are scheduled to hold their convention at the end of May, but the party has only one competitive Congressional race in the entire state.

So after the thousands of precincts are finished voting across the state Tuesday night, the chosen DFL delegates will head to the next level: the legislative district or county meetings that are scheduled in the early spring. At those events, voters caucus for the next level of delegates to support their respective Congressional and presidential candidates.

After the legislative caucuses, delegates head to the Congressional district caucuses in late spring to endorse their preferred candidates for the House of Representatives. This caucus determines which Congressional candidates in the competitive primaries will receive the official DFL endorsement.

The same group of delegates from the legislative caucuses then head to the state convention in Rochester, Minn., from June 6 to 8 to make their endorsement in the Senate contest.

And even if a candidate does not get the DFL endorsement at the convention, he or she can still win the primary on Sept. 9 — however, all of the Senate and many of the Congressional Democratic candidates have promised to abide by their party’s endorsement and not force a potentially divisive primary.

What’s more, caucusing is nonbinding for both Republicans and Democrats, so delegates can change their minds at any given step in the process leading up to the party’s respective conventions.