There's something about the wise blood of Allen Quist's comeback in Minnesota politics that reminds Bluestem of the seminal Southern writer Flannery O'Connor. Today, the O'Connor character who seems most relevant to the drama is Manley Pointer, the traveling Bible salesman who, before stealing the anti-heroine's wooden leg in "Good Country People," reveals his Holy Writ to be nothing but a hollow front for condoms, liquor and pornographic deck of cards.
The deceptive spirit of Mr. Pointer seems to live and breathe in some Wednesday-morning quarterbacks who are offering explanations about the significance of the godly Mr. Quist's political comeback. Let's open that volume in no particular order.
#1 Quist-Parry totals = GOP fall victory
First there's the notion floating around that somehow, in a low-turnout primary, where the only truly contested races were on the right side--or among the nonpartisan judical races--that the fact that Mike Parry and Allen Quist together captured more votes than Congressman Walz is a sign that-wonder of wonders--Mr. Quist will defeat Representative Walz in November.
On Twitter, Darin Broton attributed this sentiment to Republican Party of Minnesota State Chair Pat Shortridge:
MN GOP chair says Walz will lose becuz fewer ppl voted for Tim Walz than GOPers in primary. Does this hold true for Chip Craavack?
Responding to a direct message, Broton said that Shortage dropped this pearl of wisdom on either WCCO Radio or Bring Me the News.
Together, Parry and Quist impressed 23,163 to cast ballots yesterday, while Congressman Walz challenged the circle-filling abilities of a mere 15,697 souls.
Were that logic and evidence sound, we all would have said hello to Congressman Brian Davis after he took office in 2009. After all, Davis and state senator Dick Day attracted 25,676 votes in 2008, whereas the hapless Walz only collected 20,998 primary voters attention. As there were no competitive statewide races among the Republicans, the higher turnout on the right side should be attributed in part to the candidates themselves, as well as the later September primary in a presidential year.
Unlike this year, the DFL U.S. Senate race pitted a semi-serious dark horse with something of a pedigree--Priscilla Lord Faris--against the endorsed candidate Al Franken and so DFL primary turnout was a bit higher.
Alas, partisan turnout for a Minnesota primary isn't predictive of success in the general election. November brought a resounding Walz victory as the Mankato high school teacher crushed Davis in a 62.50 percent to 32.93 split, with an IP candidate and write-ins taking the rest.
Money changes everything
What will November bring? Walz enjoys a huge cash advantage, boundless energy, an experienced campaign staff and seems to be liked by most Southern Minnesotans. But while Quist is a little different as we say in these parts, the district voters are independent-minded and far from any madding major media market.
Will superfund dollars flow into the district? Depends upon internal polling most likely--for now, it's not thought to be competitive. And surely the twitter hubbub about Quist's odd but decades' old statements--popularized by Mother Jones and the Parry Campaign (band name anyone?)--should drive some dollars in Walz's direction from progressives terrified at the thought of a Bachmann mentor in Congress.
Another fascinating fact: Mike Parry lost to Quist in the same counties that he lost in the January 2010 election--including his home county of Waseca. In his home senate district, he won Steele County by 59 votes, while losing Rice County as well as Waseca County. The Manly Pointers who argued that he can succeed in these sorts of counties might wish to find another Bible.
Update 11:53 p.m: Mark Fischenich elaborates on this point in Parry fared poorly in areas he represents
Ron Paul-Tea Party/Party Regular Split
Finally, checking out the split between Quist and Parry with the Kurt Bills-David Carlson divide in Southern Minnesota suggests that the Ron Paul--Tea Party/ regular Republican divide so touted by Minnesota Conservatives isn't as monolithic as Gilmore might suggest. Carlson won in MNCD1 by 25 votes. Allen Quist was largely thought to be the Ron Paul-Tea Party candidate, and yet the "regular Republican" dismay with Bills didn't stop Quist.
Indeed, digging down on the county level, the Bills/Carlson and Parry/Quist correlation seems random. Bills won Steele County, which was Parry country--barely. Other Bills/Parry locales? Jackson County and Olmsted County.
Carlson and Quist: Cottonwood County (though only a slice of Cottonwood in still in the First): Faribault County: Le Sueur County; Mower County; Nobles County; Rock County; Watonwan County and Winona County
Go figure. Perhaps a Bills win is a signal of party discipline in a BPOU, rather than Tea Party-Paul/party regular. Whatever the case, the Bills/Carlson split is as far-flung across the map of southern Minnesota as the district itself; with the exception of Jackson County, Parry's victories are confined to the eastern part of the district.
Photo: Why is Congressman Walz smiling?