High voter turnout: who benefits?

Last night, Fox 9 news was predicting higher voter turnout here than in 2004, when Minnesota led the nation. Then, according to the television station, some 2.9 million Minnesotans voted; by Fox's numbers, some 3.1 million are already registered this year, not counting those voters who might take advantage of the state's same-day registration.

Early word is that the polling sites are busy, at least in Minneapolis. Some early reactions from posts on Minneapolis Issues, the e-forum:

Voting in Ward 7, precinct 3, Lowry Hill resident Tom Madden writes that he was number "53 at 7:25, 50 more in line behind me. I'm excited about the turnout."

Laura, from southeast Como, writes that in Ward 2, precinct 3, at 7:30 a.m. there was a "1/2 hour wait, line 50 deep. Constant inflow of more voters coming in the door. Left at 8:05 a.m."

And Nokomis East resident Jim Graves notes that in Ward 12, precinct 5, at 9:20 a.m., he was "#449 (!)" and in a "short line (I waited maybe two or three minutes), but lots of people--about as many were voting at folding tables as were at the privacy booths."

All of this would indicate that the races for state offices are especially tight, as is the case with the Pawlenty/Hatch showdown. It's counter-intuitive, but the turnout might help Pawlenty, if the Minneapolis pattern is being played out statewide. Though a Republican incumbent might benefit from low voter turnout, poll numbers have cast Pawlenty as the underdog in recent weeks.

Of course, voters in Minneapolis probably aren't turning out for Pawlenty in high numbers. But in recent days, since Hatch's "Whoregate" snafu and John Kerry's ill-fated stand-up career, Hatch is hurting.

No less an authority than former Republican governor Arne Carlson noted it last night on Fox 9, saying Hatch's campaign grade has gone from a solid A- to a B. More importantly, the conservative base seems mobilized in a way it wasn't just two weeks ago.

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