Battleground Politics in a New Setting
CHRISTOPHER P. GILBERT
IN 2004 MINNESOTA JOINED THE SET OF CONTEMPORARY PRESIdential election battleground states, playing host to a lengthy, intense, and often bitter campaign. The eventual narrow victory of Senator John Kerry over President George W. Bush—keeping Minnesota in the Democratic column for the eighth consecutive presidential race—should not obscure the implications of Minnesota's shift to partisan parity in the past decade. The Christian Right has played a major role in driving this shift, and its influence in state politics virtually guarantees that Minnesota will remain a polarized battleground in future election cycles for local, state, and national offices.
This chapter traces the recent history of the Christian Right in Minnesota and the parallel rise of the state Republican party to parity status with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DEL),1 focusing especially on the 2004 campaign as an indicator of the strengths and limitations that Christian Right political groups and activists have within Minnesota politics.
Republicans approached the 2004 presidential contest in Minnesota with high expectations, fueled by recent results. In the 2000 presidential election, Democratic nominee Al Gore defeated George W. Bush by just 2.5 percentage points (58,607 votes)—the closest Minnesota presidential election result since 1984 (Gilbert and Peterson 2003, 181). Moreover, in November 2002 Republicans reclaimed the governorship behind state