Roundup: Breaking down a busy week of Minnesota politics

People stand at voting booths
South Minneapolis residents cast their votes at St. Joan of Arc Community Center on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

From a key state Supreme Court ruling to local election results to Minnesota U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips’ presidential campaign, it’s been an action-packed week in Minnesota politics.

Brian Bakst, MPR News political editor, and Eric Eskola, co-host of “Almanac” on Twin Cities Public Television, joined Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer to sift through this week’s headlines and what they mean for Minnesotans.

The following is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full segment by clicking the player button above.

On the Minnesota Supreme Court rejecting a bid to keep President Trump off the primary ballot

Bakst: I think the most surprising thing was how quickly they moved. This was just heard one week ago today. The court didn't rule on the merits of the arguments whether Trump participated in insurrection and whether that meant he shouldn't be on future ballots.

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They basically said it's not in our court right now, that the parties get to run these primaries. They get to decide who to put on the ballots, even if that person might be ineligible to hold the office down the line.

Eskola: I thought Chief Justice Natalie Hudson had a very interesting comment and a question when she was urging caution to the court and other justices that even if the court had the authority to remove former President Trump from the primary ballot, she asked, “Should we do that?”

And I don't know, Brian, I think that might have been criticized as a kind of a banana republic-style decision to take the chief Republican candidate for 2024 off the ballot in Minnesota.

Bakst: Keep in mind that the court said this might come back at a later point when the general election is upon us. But clearly the court in its questions and in the comments made in the hearing last week was hopeful that this wouldn't be in their lap for long.

On a recent presidential poll showing Minnesotans narrowly supporting Biden over Trump 40 to 38 percent with 14 percent wanting someone else

Eskola: Well, let's look at a little history. In 2020, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 7 points in Minnesota. Back in 2016, Hillary Clinton only won over Trump in Minnesota by a point and a half. So it shows the race to be competitive in general.

Bakst: Here's the dirty secret: Both parties don't mind this poll, because Democrats know that they might have a complacency problem next year. They're working to build intensity around the candidate. And if there's a threat that Joe Biden might lose Minnesota — becoming the first Democrat to lose a state here since 1972 — that will get people a kick in the pants.

And Trump, he might have a ceiling in Minnesota. Both times he ran, he was around 45 percent. So Trump would have work to do if he's the Republican nominee as well.

On how the presidential race might affect down-ballot races

Eskola: I think we might have the old reverse coattails scenario going on here. While it won't be Biden and Trump, if those are the two nominees, carrying down-ballot folks across the finish line it might be folks like Amy Klobuchar, Tom Emmer down-ballot. “I'll go vote for Amy because I want to vote for her but and while I'm here, I'll guess I'll vote for Biden.” Or, “I like Tom Emmer in the 6th District. I'll vote for him and while I'm here, I might as well vote for the Republican presidential candidate.”

So it might be a case of the down-ballot races really helping the the top of the ticket.

On Rep. Dean Phillips alleging fellow Democrats are thwarting his presidential bid

Bakst: Keep in mind Dean Phillips is in a challenging situation. There's not going to be any Democratic primary debates like the one we saw last night with Republicans. He's running in this situation where he is going to potentially have trouble accumulating delegates against Joe Biden if Joe Biden stays in the race. Dean Phillips says Joe Biden should get out, but we've seen no indications that that's going to happen.

Eskola: Interestingly enough, after Tuesday's Democratic successes around the country, Phillips was quoted in The Daily Mail in the UK: We don't have a Democratic Party problem. We have a Joe Biden problem. And the exit polls in Ohio after Tuesday, 72 percent of respondents said Biden should not run again. So maybe Phillips is onto something in that regard.

On Duluth Mayor Emily Larson’s loss to former DFL lawmaker Roger Reinert

Eskola: Well, she was criticized as being inaccessible. Reinert won all over the city of Duluth except the UMD campus area.

One of the voters that was quoted by Dan Kraker in his story this week, said she wanted the city to focus on the basics of local government, not as much on social justice and climate change. And I think Reinert tapped into that in his victory speech. He even said that he will concentrate on, quote, city stuff from now on.

Bakst: Roger Reinert — to jump on something Eric said — was local, local, local. He talked about snow plowing. He talked about the condition of streets, and he was able to kind of tap into this center-right coalition of voters as well as Democrats, deliver to Democrats on the ballot, even though it's a nonpartisan race. And a lot of times these center-right voters up there in Duluth don't have a place to go.

He gave them a place to go, so that probably helped as well.

On Minneapolis City Council election results

Eskola: The City Council moves more liberal, more progressive. But Mayor Frey does have the veto pen said he will use it, and it looks like that progressive coalition does not have the votes to override a veto. And they're still kind of test driving the strong mayor system between the council and the mayor. And I think that will that will be a process ongoing as they decide how the new form of city government is going to work.

Bakst: It'll be interesting to see the dynamic between the council and the mayor. A couple of his key allies did survive. They're all talking about working in harmony. Let's see if that happens.

Listen to the full conversation with the audio player above.