There’s plenty of buzz in Minnesota’s political circles today about former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson endorsing Barack Obama. But the move isn’t terribly surprising.
Carlson is a more traditional East Coast Republican — a Williams College educated intellectual with an appreciation of both social service and fiscal conservatism — a progressive Republican. That’s the kind of Republican the party purged in the ’90s.
Carlson was a thorn in the side of the party, even when he was its highest-ranking official as governor, so the endorsement is unlikely to sway many — if any — Republicans. During his term, the party consistently endorsed more conservative candidates for governor. Carlson usually ignored them, then beat them handily in the party primaries. Carlson was the first Republican governor in the state’s history to be denied the endorsement by his own party.
Alan Quist lost in a landslide to Carlson in 1994 after running a campaign based on moral issues — Carlson supported legalized abortion — but that was back before that became the party mainstay, and when Republicans in the state were known as Independent Republicans.
Since leaving office, Carlson has teamed up with former VP Walter Mondale to try to repeal the concealed carry handgun law in the state, criticized Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget plan to use money from the Health Care Access fund, which funds the state health insurance program, and went to the Legislature to lobby against Pawlenty’s cuts in a state program to curb fetal alcohol syndrome, which was his wife’s project. He’s also endorsed the occasional Democrat in state Legislature races, as he did in 2004 in DFLer Jim Carlson unsuccessful bid in District 38B, and he endorsed DFLer Rebecca Otto in her successful campaign for state auditor in 2006.
And earlier in this campaign, the Washington Post published a letter from Carlson lamenting that religion was being used in the Republican Party as a litmus test for the vice presidential selection.
For more than a decade, Arne Carlson has had nothing in common with the Republican Party. Today was no exception.
(Listen to Carlson’s announcement via Polinaut)