A look at the presidential primary process

Back in the Day

Jack Puterbaugh

Guest Writer

There has already been lots of chatter about the 2012 presidential election that is some 20 months away.

In fact, two of the possible Republican candidates are from Minnesota. That is nothing new. In past elections, Minnesotans have been candidates for the nation’s highest office.

On the Republican side, Harold Stassen made the effort several times, but was never successful. For the Democrats, Hubert Humphrey was the candidate in 1968 after serving as Vice President when Lyndon Johnson was President.

Likewise, Walter Mondale was the Democratic candidate in 1984 after serving as Vice President when Jimmy Carter was President. There was also Senator Eugene McCarthy, who as the 1968 anti Vietnam War candidate, is often given credit for Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for reelection that year.

Thus Minnesota has received attention from those residents who have aspired to the presidency. However, since Minnesota does not have a presidential primary, we do not get the same attention as New Hampshire, South Carolina and the other states that have presidential primaries. This was not always the case as Minnesota once did hold presidential primary elections in March of presidential election years. The law was repealed after the 1956 election.

In 1952 the Minnesota Republican Party establishment was in favor of Harold Stassen, but a write-in effort was made on behalf of General Dwight Eisenhower. While Stassen was the winner, his margin of victory was small, and it helped to propel Eisenhower on to the nomination and then election as President. The election was somewhat of an embarrassment to the regulars.

In 1956 it was the DFLer’s turn. Adlai Stevenson, Governor of Illinois, the Democratic candidate in 1952 who had been defeated decisively by General Eisenhower in 1952, was a candidate for the second time in 1956. The DFL Party endorsed Stevenson, but that endorsement was challenged by Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. When the ballots were counted after the March 20 election, Kefauver had won everywhere except for the Fifth Congressional District, which was essentially the city of Minneapolis back in those days.

Since the political parties had been taken to the cleaners in successive elections, the Legislature repealed the Presidential Primary Law in 1959. Now Minnesotans are left to watching what happens in New Hampshire.