Is The Conservative Message Wearing Thin?

While it’s far too early to tell for sure, there are indications that Minnesotans may be tiring of hard-core conservativism. The most obvious evidence of that is Chris Coleman‘s landslide victory over incumbent St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly.

Granted, there are plenty of caveats to throw at the argument: Kelly is a Democrat, not a Republican. Even if you concede that he’s as close to a Republican as a Democrat can get in this state, you still have to acknowledge that he lost in an overwhelmingly DFL city.

Even so, as the papers all pointed out, Kelly was the first incumbent St. Paul mayor to lose re-election since 1972. And he lost in a city that was perfectly happy to elect a conservative Democrat mayor twice (himself and his predecessor Norm Coleman) and a Republican (Norm Coleman, again, in 1997) as its past three mayors.

Both Norm Coleman and Randy Kelly ran on no new taxes pledges. This time, Kelly not only said he wouldn’t raise taxes, he wanted to make it harder to raise taxes by requiring a supermajority from the City Council.

It sure looked like Kelly’s endorsement of President Bush was the kiss of death (it looked as if St. Paul voters were saying, I didn’t vote for that!), but what’s remarkable is that judging by the polls, it appears as if St. Paulites were perfectly happy with the job he’d done as mayor. But for the endorsement…

The other factor indicating voters may be growing weary of the conservative message is the result of the school referendums. As the Star Tribune reported, "Twelve of 18 Twin Cities-area districts won yes votes from their constituents for tax increases for new buildings or more operating mon ey." And statewide, "64 districts won voter approval for property-tax increases, while 20 failed. The 76 percent passage rate was the highest since 1999."

Those results would seem to indicate that the appeal of the absolutely no new taxes message is waning.

Finally, as Politics In Minnesota pointed out in the October 30 issue, in a piece on talk radio, conservative talk on the airwaves appears to be losing steam in Minnesota, while liberal talk is gaining appeal:

In the political talk category, the most noticeable movement is the massive downward trend of KSTP-AM 1500 which had a 6.0 rating a year ago but only mustered a 3.8 this summer. Recall the station’s marquee national program, Rush Limbaugh, is leaving for a new talk station owned by Clear Channel that will debut in January. 

On the more "minor" political talk stations, there is some apparent growth for Air America which posted a 1.2 rating up from 1.0 in the spring and .9 in the winter. The conservative equivalent, the Patriot (1280AM), came in with a 1.4 for the summer, up from a 1.2 last spring.

Too early to tell? Yes. But these results coupled with President Bush’s low poll numbers are giving liberals hope that the tide may be turning.