(page 1 of 2)Last summer, in an effort to make Minnesota more relevant in presidential races, state legislators voted to bump precinct caucuses from early March to February 5. The reasoning: Because everything in the presidential-campaign cycle has been trending earlier—announcements, fundraising, smearing—the party nominations will essentially have been decided by March.
But the move isn’t likely to make much of a difference. For starters, roughly 20 other states have passed similar legislation, rendering the move, well, about one-twentieth as effective. We’re just another joiner in the extravaganza soon to be known as Super-Duper Tuesday.
What’s more, Minnesota won’t distinguish itself because, if history is any guide, we almost always follow our southern neighbor. We’ve trod the same path as Iowa in every election (save 1980) since the 1960s, the decade when Iowa’s caucuses became significant. Even our bolder choices have mirrored Iowa’s picks, as in 1988, when Minnesotan Republicans selected Senator Robert Dole, who then had only a minimal shot at the presidency; and in 1992, when Minnesota Democrats sided with Iowa liberals to choose the Hawkeye State senator Tom Harkin. Neither, you’ll recall, reached the Oval Office.
Arctic FrontRoughly 100 members of the Minnesota National Guard are packing for yet another overseas deployment this month. But the all-volunteer force isn’t headed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
These Minnesota soldiers will visit a training facility in Norway, just south of the Arctic Circle. As part of an exchange program, begun in 1974, the Americans will spend two weeks learning combat and survival skills—mountain warfare, winter camouflage, cold-weather camping—from members of the Norwegian Home Guard. Such training may seem far removed from the realities of the war in Iraq, but these skill sets could come in handy in the mountains of Afghanistan or in some future deployment, says a Guard spokesperson: “You never know what’s coming next.”
The second part of the exchange is a “cultural experience” offered by the Norwegian hosts. We’re not sure if chugging beer in the Arctic chill qualifies as culture, but it probably beats drinking warm water in Iraq.