PoliGraph: DFLers won, but leader’s claim goes too far

On Election Day, Minnesota Democrats reclaimed both chambers of the state Legislature, which puts them in the unusual position of controlling the Capitol and the Governor’s office.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said in a recent interview on TPT’s Almanac that a close look at the votes shows what a huge responsibility this win is for his party.

“I think Minnesotans are sending a pretty strong message to the Legislature,” Bakk said. “The interesting thing that I observed was the Democratic candidates for the state Senate got 100,000 more votes than President Obama. That means to me that 100,000 people in Minnesota voted for Mitt Romney for president and then they decided to vote for a Democratic candidate for the state Senate. I think there’s a message in that and a lot of responsibility in that, when you’ve got a large number of voters that really historically haven’t voted for a Democrat.”

It’s entirely true that Democrats got more votes than Republicans this election, but Bakk’s statement goes a bit too far.

The Evidence

First, Bakk misspoke when he said that “Democrats got 100,000 more votes than President Obama.” In fact, Obama got more votes.

Rather, Bakk explained to MPR that he meant to say that the margin of votes Senate Democrats received over Senate Republicans was 100,000 more than the margin between Obama and Romney’s votes.

“We beat our challenger by 100,000 votes more than he beat his. I think there’s some message in that,” Bakk said.

Bakk’s larger point is on shakier ground. He’s also arguing that more than 100,000 Minnesota voters voted for Mitt Romney and for DFL candidates, indicating historically Republican voters are now favoring the DFL.

It’s true that nearly 128,000 Minnesotans cast their ballot for Mitt Romney, but not for GOP Senators.

But it’s impossible to know whether those Minnesota Romney supporters also voted for Democrats or whether they didn’t vote at all because the Secretary of State doesn’t keep track of such things.

The Verdict

Whether he misspoke or not, Bakk’s numbers aren’t totally off. And clearly, Minnesotans favored legislative Democrats over Republicans this year.

But Bakk’s claim gets off track when he implies that Republicans who voted for Romney uniformly voted for DFL Senators, too. That may be the case in some instances, but it’s also possible that those Minnesotans didn’t vote for any legislative candidates. And because the Secretary of State doesn’t track keep that data, it’s impossible to say one way or another.

For taking this claim a step too far, Bakk gets a misleading.


TPT’s Alamanac, Nov. 16, 2012

Minnesota Secretary of State, Official Election Results 2012, accessed Nov. 28, 2012

Interview, Sen. Tom Bakk, Nov. 28, 2012

  • Ralph Crammedin

    Oh, Catharine, you’ve screwed up another one. Notwithstanding the tangle-tongued way he tried to express it, Tom Bakk’s point is conceptually correct. Your analysis, however, is once again a mess.

    You assert that “Bakk’s statement goes a bit too far,” and you are probably correct in that assertion. It is not certain that every one of the 100,000 votes in question was the result of an individual voting for Mitt Romney and also for a DFL candidate for Minnesota Senate. But neither is it certain that is not the case. Mr. Bakk’s statement, per se, is simply impossible to prove or disprove. Accordingly, you have done nothing to disprove it.

    Bakk’s essential point, however, is that a minimum net of 100,000 Minnesota voters expressed a greater preference for DFL senatorial candidates against their Republican opponents than for Barack Obama against Mitt Romney. Put another way, to which you imply consent in your commentary, at least 100,000 voters expressed a lesser preference for their Republican senatorial candidates against their DFL opponents than for Mitt Romney against Barack Obama.

    Whether this preference was expressed 1) by 100,000 (or more) voters who voted for both a Democrat for State Senator and for Mr Romney, 2) by 100,000 who did not vote at all for State Senator and voted for Romney, 3) by 100,000 who voted for a Democrat for Senate and who did not vote for President, or 4) by some combination of these prior three (the only possible explanations for the 100,000 vote difference), the preference expressed was the same. In each instance the voter clearly expressed a greater preference, or lesser displeasure, for Romney over Obama more than for the Republican candidate for Senate over the Democrat. In each instance, Bakk’s expressed understanding of Minnesota voters’ preference is accurate.

    But instead of addressing this rather obvious identification of relative preference, which was clearly Mr. Bakk’s intent, you try to hang him with the impossible and totally irrelevant task of identifying each and every voter who expressed that preference by voting a particular form of split ticket.

    Catharine, as I’ve noted before in this space, you cannot answer the question until you understand the question. Once again you’ve misunderstood the argument being made, and you’ve thereby created a facile analysis with a totally wrong conclusion. Once again, your Poligraph score is an F.

  • Billy

    Another factoid to consider: Three DFL candidates for the Senate ran unopposed, meaning they racked up an inordinate amount of votes compared to the presidential race. Also, the Green Party candidate for president received over 13,000 votes. Bakk won the election – no need to make up false analysis.

  • Ross Williams

    Perhaps poligraph ought to do a poligraph on itself:

    “But it’s impossible to know whether those Minnesota Romney supporters also voted for Democrats or whether they didn’t vote at all because the Secretary of State doesn’t keep track of such things.”

    While its true that its impossible to know, its not because “the Secretary of State doesn’t keep track of such things.” This implies the Secretary of State chooses not to “track” the information when, in fact, it is simply unavailable.