IP: The Decline and Fall of the Limousine Moderates

Mike Mosedale

Hyatt Ballroom, downtown Minneapolis

Behind the stage in this regally appointed hall hung a banner with the legend The Golden Ticket: Responsible. Accountable. Electable.

As the saying goes, two out of three ain't bad. And although the IP slate of candidates demonstrated once again that they were not electable—at least not without the star power of a charismatic ex-pro wrestler and an electorate in a fanciful, pre-9/11 state of mind—the gathering was notable for something besides its epidemic of wishful thinking: It was, hands down, the best catered event of the night, with free sushi, pecan chicken, and red wine for all. The nearly all-white, mainly affluent crowd did not appear to reflect the demos that Jesse Ventura rode to victory in 1998—all those young, blue-collar, beer-drinking, first-time voters Ventura roused to action in his last-minute, bar-to-bar get-out-the-vote effort. Lesson? The limousine moderates who seem to make up the core of IP 3.0 simply aren't as important to electoral politics in Minnesota as all those twentysomething bar hoppers from Anoka County.

The party's most successful candidate, Tammy Lee, did manage to wrangle about 20 percent of the vote in the Fifth District congressional race, but that feat comes with an asterisk, as it was largely attributable to the discomfort among a sizeable chunk of moderates with the baggage (both personal and political) of DFL-nominee and now Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, and repulsion toward GOP candidate Alan Fine, who played attack dog in the days after Ellison's September primary win.

At the top of the IP ticket, gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson scraped together a meager 6.5 percent of the vote. It was just enough to maintain the IP's major party status. But it also marked the third consecutive election in which the IP has seen its fortunes slip dramatically.

A bad omen, you say? That's not how the IP standard-bearers saw it. "No matter what happened tonight, this is a race we won," Lee declared not long after the polls closed. By that measure, then, the IP "golden ticket" was not only electable, it was elected. But in the real world, where winning a congressional race means you pack your bags and move to Washington, D.C., the IP looks now to be inhabiting the familiar role of third-party spoiler.

Then again, the IP still has bragging rights over those once-giddy Greens, whose top vote getter this time around, state auditor candidate Dave Berger, polled an anemic 2.3 percent. Bottom line: The IP may still cling to major party status, but they're still mired in a two-party world.

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