Sunday, June 30, 2013

Higher Education After Affirmative Action

So what would higher education in America look like without affirmative action? This is the question many are asking after the Supreme Court decision in  Fisher v. University of Texas, Austin declaring that the use of race in college admissions must be justified by a compelling government interest.  While the decision did not invalidate or declare the use of race unconstitutional in admissions decisions, it made it very difficult to do that, perhaps effectively ending affirmative action.

Some see this decision as a blessing and victory for color-blind justice. In its place some advocate the use of class or economic disadvantage as a way to recruit and diversify. But given the growing economic polarization in the United States and trends in higher education, the use of class as admissions criteria in itself will fail to diversify and open up higher education to many new faces.

The mixing of race and education have always been controversial. Affirmative action was one tool to combat this discrimination. In 1978, the Supreme Court in Board of Regents of California v. Bakke upheld the use of race as one factor that could be considered among others when making college admissions decisions. It was a controversial 5-4 decision, with Justice Lewis Powell writing the controlling opinion defending affirmative action and the use of race in admissions as a means of promoting educational diversity. Twenty-five years later in Grutter v. Bolinger, the Supreme Court in another controversial 5-4 opinion again upheld the use of race and affirmative action in college admissions decisions. This time Justice O’Connor wrote the controlling opinion, yet this time opining that she hoped in another 25 years race no longer would need to be an admissions factor in a color-blind society.

But many in America still resent affirmative action. States such as California have already banned it, and there are calls to shift away from race and instead use economic disadvantage or class in place of it. What if the Supreme Court does ban the use of race in admissions, is class a good proxy or replacement? Not necessarily.

The real problem with shifting to class as an admissions criteria is that higher education has closed its doors to the poor, and America is more and more becoming an economically unequal society. The reality is that the poor cannot afford to go to school and higher education no longer seems to want or can afford them.

Consider America’s economic polarization. The first study is from the United States Census Bureau in 2010 describing poverty and income in America. In 2010 the richest five percent of the population accounted for 21 percent of the income, with the top 20 percent receiving more than 50 percent of the total income in the country. This compares to the bottom quintile accounting for about 3 percent of the total income.

A second study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2010, drawing upon Congressional Budget Office research, found that the income gap between the top one percent of the population and everyone else more than tripled since 1973. After-tax income for the top one percent increased by 281 percent between 1973 and 2007, while for the middle class or middle quintile it increased by 25 percent, for the bottom quintile it was merely 16 percent. Looking beyond income to wealth, the maldistribution has not been this bad since the 1920s. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, in 2007 the top one-percent controlled almost 34 percent of the wealth in the country, with half of the population possessing less than 3 percent. The racial disparities for wealth mirror those of income. Since 2007, the wealth gap has increased as the value of American homes–the single largest source of wealth for most Americans– has eroded. Studies such as the Survey of Consumer Finances by the Federal Reserve Board have similarly concluded that the wealth gap has increased since the 1980s.

But Americans still dream and believe they can rise to the top. Yet social mobility in America has ground to a halt. A 2010 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study found that social mobility in the United States ranked far below that of many other developed countries. Nearly half of the economic advantage parents have in the United States is transmitted to their children; a number nearly two-and-one-half times that of Australia and Canada. The biggest cause of social immobility according to the report is declining educational opportunities for many students. Other studies, including those in 2005 and 2010 in the Economist, similarly point to the declining social mobility in the United States that makes it difficult for individuals to rise from one social economic status to a better one. In fact, there is better than a 95 percent chance that children will not improve their social economic status in comparison to their parents. In sum, the rich are getter richer and the poor cannot change their lot.

Now consider higher education. The New York Times and other media services have talked about the declining applications from blue-collar students to elite universities and higher education in general. Rising tuition rates are pricing the poor out of school. But other studies point to universities which are culturally intolerant to the poor and working class. Fewer and fewer professors are first generation college students, and many schools rely upon legacy admissions. At Harvard, studies recount how legacies–children of students who previously attended Harvard–appear to have a greater chance of securing admission than those whose parents did not attend the school. For supposedly the most selective school in the country, the legacy applicant pool is not as competitive. Additionally, applicants who attend a select number of preparatory schools also seem to benefit in terms of admissions. Income and family economic advantages make a difference in terms of admissions and success in school.

The point here is that finding  race in admissions as unconstitutional and replacing it with class will do little either to diversify higher education or open up opportunities for the disadvantaged. Affirmative action for the poor will do little to ensure they are admitted, that they can afford to go, or that they can succeed and compete. Merely changing the law this way will do little to help the disadvantaged, regardless of race.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The End of the Second Civil Rights Era and the Coming of the Second Great Disenfranchisement

    With Monday’s affirmative action decision and Tuesday’s Voting Right Act case the Supreme Court has just about ended the second civil rights era in American history, paving the way for the second great disenfranchisement in American history.   While the decisions were no surprise, they nonetheless tell us many things about race, class and power in American politics, and also about who the Supreme Court favors. . .and it is not the powerless and oppressed.
    Consider first what the two decisions did.  On Monday the Supreme issued a decision ruling that the use of race in admissions decisions for public colleges and universities is not permitted unless it survives strict scrutiny.  What that decision means is that higher education must demonstrate a compelling reason why race should be used for admission decisions.  Strict scrutiny is a high bar to jump, and effectively decision means that it will be very difficult to implement most affirmative action decisions that rely on race.
    Tuesday’s decision affected perhaps the single most effective civil rights tool in American history–the Voting Rights Act.  Passed in1965 and reauthorized several times, the act had several provisions.  Some applied to all states and barred discriminatory practices that impeded minority voting rights.  But Sections 4 and 5 were unique.  Section 4 applied to certain states that had low voter registration and discriminatory practices in 1964.  For those states that met the Section 4 criteria, any changes that they made in their voting procedures would have to be “precleared” by the US Justice Department before going in to effect.
    The overall VRA was passed to overcome the history of discriminatory voting practices enacted in the South after the Civil War.  As the Civil War ended Congress passed several civil rights acts along with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.  Collectively, this legislation was part of Reconstruction which sought to rebuild the South and promote Black equality.  Yet Reconstruction ended in 1877 when federal troops were withdrawn from the South as part of a deal to end a presidential election standoff between Harrison and Tilden.  When Reconstruction ended, southern states enacted all types of restrictive legislation to effectively re-enslave Blacks.  We saw the emergence of separate but equal, but also laws aimed at preventing African-Americans from voting.  These efforts included poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather laws, and felon disenfranchisement laws.  More extreme, the KKK burned crosses and lynched to make sure their message was understood.  These laws were upheld by the courts and discrimination persisted in the South.  After a brief flirtation during Reconstruction when many former slaves were elected to office or voted, the laws were a success–until the 1960s only a few percent of the African-American population could vote.
    But a new civil rights era began with Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and the VRA.    Civil rights heroes pushed the cause of equal rights onto the political agenda, President Johnson responded with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the VRA, and the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren upheld their constitutionality.   The VRA has been powerfully successful in promoting civil rights for people of color and the act was subsequently reauthorized several times, most notably in 2007. 
    Here is the problem.  The Act may be a victim of its own success.  The original VRA was upheld by the courts based upon the evidence of discrimination that existed in the 1960s.  But the South has changed in many ways since then when it comes to voting.  The registration rates for Blacks is different now than 1964.  But when the VRA was last reauthorized it was done so with congressional findings of fact from the 1960s and 1970s.  Today’s Supreme Court decision struck the act down, arguing that the data used to define which states are subject to section 5 preclearance was out of date.  Effectively, part of the VRA was declared unconstitutional.
    Now Congress should not have been so sloppy in using old data to support the reauthorization of the VRA.  But this Supreme Court cut them no slack.  It ignored that minority voting rights had dramatically improved because of the VRA and because of the threat of pre-clearance.  Without this threat, voter id, gerrymandering, and a host of new practices will go into effect that will chip away at voting rights.  What we are about to see, as I described in 2008 William Mitchell Law Review Article, is the coming of the second great disenfranchisement in American history.  We have already seen that effort in the last few years with voter id, long voting lines, and mythic claims of voter fraud.
    But now couple the VRA case with the affirmative action decision.  This is a Supreme Court that does not seem to recognize that racism continues to exist and that somehow we can live in a color-blind society.  Yet racism does exist.  We see it in housing discrimination and job discrimination.  Wealth disparities across race exist as do disparities exist when it comes to arrests, racial profiling, and sentencing.  We continue to live in two nations, separate and unequal, yet this Court fails to see that.  Instead, its decisions, much like that of the Supreme Court after the Civil War, are gutting civil rights legislation.  The Supreme Court of Justice Roberts is no friend of people of color.  It is not the Supreme Court of Earl Warren, but of Melville Fuller who presided over much of the dismantling of the old Reconstruction and the ushering in of the Jim Crow and separate but equal era.
    But like the Fuller Court, the Roberts Court is also unsympathetic to the oppressed in general.  If the Fuller Court protected the rich and corporations by striking down legislation that sought to regulate trusts, the economy, and unfair working conditions, the Roberts Court has given corporations the free speech rights to make political expenditures.  It has also made it hard to bring class action suit against them.  Think about it–today’s Supreme Court decision gutting parts of the VRA that was meant to protect minority voting rights needs to read along side its Citizen’s United decision.  More rights for corporations, less for people of color. One should also read these election law cases along side the affirmative action case.  For those who think the use of class can substitute for race and affirmative action, the Supreme Court is building a body of law that insulates the haves against the have nots. 
    Overall, what we are learning from this Court is that it is closing the doors of justice to many and it seems to be on the road of creating a political system that is less equal for all, at least when it comes to race and class.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The People v. the Plutocrats and Political Scientists

    Everyone knows that the American political system is supposed to be based on majority will.  True, but only half correct.  It is actually a political system based on majority will subject to limits to protect minority rights.  Our political system was never pure populism and it should not be.  Respect for minority rights should not be viewed as a threat to democracy; instead, as recent debates surrounding ranked choice voting (RCV) demonstrate, the danger comes from the plutocrats and political scientists, both which seem to oppose it because either of fears that it threatens their power or because of the belief that the people are not smart enough to vote this way.
    James Madison  declared in the Federalist Papers (essays written by him, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay in 1787 defending the ratification of the proposed American Constitution) that "all government rests on opinion."  Ultimately the best feature of popular government is that the people rule.  It is, as the first three words of the Constitution declare, about “We the people.”  Yet while the rule of the people is the hallmark of a representative government or democracy, the worst feature too can be that the people rule.  There is an ugly strain in American politics that begins with the Salem Witch trials that run to slavery, the subjection of women, the McCarthy hearings, and Stonewall.  Fear and prejudice can do nasty things.
    Yet the genius of the American politics (to borrow a phrase from historian Daniel Boorstin) is a constitutional system that seeks to qualify majority rule to protect minority rights.  It is a complex system of checks and balances, separation of powers, competitive elections, and a Bill of Rights that is supposed to accomplish that.   This is what is known as Madisonian democracy.
    The system does not always work.  Progressive era historians such as Charles Beard in his An  Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States contended that the Constitution was  meant to support the interests of the economic elites in the country that were badly hurt by the first American constitution the Articles of Confederation.  The Constitution was written by rich property owners who supported slavery and property rights.  The minority they wished to protect from majority rule, for Beard, were the rich.  The American political system is one designed not by the people, for the people, and of the people, but one in spite of the people. The fact that 225+ years after the writing of the Constitution the profile of the leaders of this country looks much the same as those who designed it speaks perhaps to the bias against the people in American politics.  “We the people,” as former Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall pointed out, excluded the majority or the people in 1787 and the history of American politics has been a struggle to give real meaning to that phrase.
    Now how does all this connect back to RCV, plutocrats, and political scientists?  There have been lots of reforms and efforts to give more power to the people.  Perhaps the greatest threat to a democracy is the economic power of the rich and corporations. Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis stated it well: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.”  The real battle for political reform in the United States needs to begin with limiting the ability of money and economic interests to affect the political process, This is the story of campaign finance reform. 
    But there are many other worthy political reforms that too are needed such as limits on political gerrymandering and guarantees on the right to vote.  But ranked choice voting too is a worthy reform.  It is a terrific experiment to give voters more choices.  It is based on the simple idea that voters have preferences and we should be able to rank our political choices.  We may have our preferred candidate, a second choice, and maybe a third one.  RCV is supposed to address two defects in the current system we use to vote.  The first is that candidates can get elected with less than a majority of the vote–a simple plurality if it is more than a two-person race.  This has been the scenario in Minnesota with the governor–no governor has received a majority of the vote since 1994.  We have had all minority governors.  Second, the current voting system discourages citizens from voting for third-party candidates less they fear they are wasting their vote.  Thus, there is a good argument to be made that the current way we cast votes is actually counter-majoritarian and that it  discourses people from voting for their preferred candidates.  This is hardly democratic.  Other democracies around the world have experimented with alternative voting systems to address these problems, with RCV as one possible solution.
    Minneapolis’ 2009 first use of RCV was inconclusive.  It was not a great test of it because of a popular mayor.  Few of the other races were decided or seriously affected by RCV.  But 2013 is different.  The mayor’s race could have up to 8-10 candidates and running as the candidate who wants to a second choice might make sense in a crowded field.
    But now some are claiming that RCV needs to be abandoned.  These claims come from plutocrats, those who fear that RCV will change the political calculus and upend their preferences.  They claim that it is anti-democratic, or that it is biased against the poor or people of color, or that it disenfranchises some.  There is no evidence to support any of this.  In 2009 there was a lot of voter error and spoiled ballots but in the end, only one ballot in the entire election was not counted.  The problems seen then perhaps were first time learning curve issues that could be addressed with more  voter education and training.  In my study for Minneapolis on RCV, I raised some concerns but ultimately did not find evidence of discrimination and a survey of voters found that 90%+ liked RCV.  Additionally, if a voting system allows for more choice among voters and strives to produce candidates who get a majority of the vote, is this not consistent with majority rule and serving the people?  Our current election system favors high name recognition and candidates with money.  No guarantee that RCV will break these trends, but anything that works to that end would be good.
    But a second criticism is coming from some political scientists who either do not like RCV or do not understand how it works.  Their central criticism is that RCV demands too much from people. It is hard enough, they say, for people to gather enough information and make choices about one candidate, let alone many and then ranked them.  The political science literature, they say, simply says this is beyond the capacity of the average voter.
    This is an elitist argument.  True, voters are perhaps not as well informed about as many things as political scientists would like them to be, but that does not mean that the people are incapable or expressing their preferences.  Under the current voting system, for good or bad, people make choices and there is no reason to expect they cannot also do so with RCV.  They do that in other countries and who is to say citizens in these countries are smarter than Americans or voters in Minneapolis.
    Finally, some political scientists just do not seem to understand or appreciate how RCV works.  They seem to think that electing someone on a second or third round of voting (assuming no first round winner with 50% + one of the votes) is anti-democratic or that the people will not stand for perhaps a protracted count of ballots.  By now Minnesotans are used to recounts and there has been no rioting in the streets.  Conversely, electing candidates to office who may turn out to be the compromise choice of the majority of voters may in fact prove to be more democratic, majority-enhancing, and prone to encouraging voters to learn and compromise than does the current process. The current voting process seems to favor voting against candidates (instead of voting for someone), selection of extremists, or simply support for the current two major parties even though the evidence increasingly suggests that the current political alignment of them does not match with most voters preferences.
    Overall, RCV may be one tool that can give real meaning to “We the People,” favoring the people over the plutocrats and the political scientists.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Obama's Constitution

            Barack Obama’s constitutionalism is not quite what anyone would have expected.  Far from embracing bold liberal notions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, much of his legal philosophy seems at home with his predecessor George Bush and Republicans.
            Ostensibly a liberal Democrat, one would have thought that Barack Obama would have been a civil libertarian, respectful of individual rights.  One would have also expected that he would have sought to use national power to its fullest to fulfill his agenda.  As a lawyer and former constitutional law professor, the belief was that he understood the law and would see how moving quickly and aggressively to fill the federal bench with his judicial nominees would be critical to securing his legal agenda and undoing the legal legacy that George Bush left.
            Such expectations were nurtured by presidential candidate Obama.  He sharply criticized the Bush administration for its support of torture and disregard for international law.  He promised to close Guantanamo Bay, and otherwise end the illegal operations of the war on terror and the presidential excesses of his predecessor.  Yet Obama has not turned out to be a constitutional liberal.
            To his credit, in the opening days of his presidency Obama did move to undo many of the practices of the Bush administration that he campaigned against.  He repealed legal opinions supporting torture and in his inaugural speech he committed his administration to transferring prisoners out of Gitmo and to closing the facility.  But Congress fought him on this initiative and Republicans have successfully stalled or filibustered judicial and other nominees.  But even accepting both as excuses, Obama’s constitutionalism is surprising.
            The Obama administration insists that it is within its constitutional authority to use drones to kill American citizens and to intercept and track telephone calls and internet traffic under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through the NSA Prism program.  Obama administration legal memos, some of which have yet to come to light, so far seem to rely upon the same assertions  about extra-constitutional presidential power as commander-in-chief or upon the same congressional ascent under the post-9/11 Authorization to Use Military Force that Bush invoked. The legal memo on drones makes the same legal contortions about presidential power that the John Yoo memo did when it came to torture.  Obama has used these legal rationales and the most extensive authority given to him under the Patriot Act and FISA to justify policies disregarding basic civil rights and liberties.
            His administration justifies the killing of American citizens without proof of guilt in court.  There is no regard to the Fourth Amendment rights against use of excessive force, no due process to contest a decision to make unilateral execution decisions.  His snooping on American citizens is done without warrant, or at least one with proof of particularized suspicion as required under the Fourth Amendment.  His administration's initial refusal to read the Boston Marathon Bomber his Miranda rights exploited a questionable legal loophole and ignored the Fifth Amendment.  And do not forget that the IRS targeting of political groups is also a violation of the First Amendment.
            But additionally the Obama administration has rode roughshod over many other parts of the Constitution.  Where is the respect for the First Amendment freedom of the press when comes to getting secret warrants to search reporters telephone conversations because they reported on news embarrassing to the Obama Administration?  Or where is the respect for First Amendment freedom of speech when it comes to one of the most aggressive administrations on record when it comes to prosecuting leaks and whistleblowers?
            But his constitutional contempt is matched by timidity.  Obama now supports same-sex marriage, but only as he was beginning to run for a second term in office and when the tide of public opinion had apparently shifted on the subject.  It took years for the Obama administration to reach the conclusion that don’t ask, don’t tell was unconstitutional but he never did anything to fight its enforcement.  The same with DOMA–he did eventually argue that it was unconstitutional but continued to enforce the law.  Even in his administration’s arguments before the Supreme Court, Obama has never embraced a view of the Equal Protection clause that fully argues that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Nor have we seen Obama argue that the death penalty is unconstitutional, and we have not seen him take an aggressive stance in Court to argue that the Second Amendment decisions holding for an individual right to bear arms were wrong and should be reversed.
            Even with the Affordable Care Act–his signature issue–he has failed to act boldly.  His central justification for its constitutionality rested on the Commerce clause–an argument the Supreme Court ultimately rejected.   In passing the Act Obama capitulated on abortion rights and since its passage has failed to push aggressively on contraception, including until recently his refusal to go along with allowing women under 18 the right to purchase the morning after pill.  It took a federal court ruling his policy to be arbitrary and capricious to get him to change his mind.
            Finally, the Obama administration has moved slowly on judicial appointments, generally eschewing efforts to challenge Senate Republicans to reject his nominees who, for the most part, have been centrists and not liberals.
            Obama’s Constitution is hardly liberal.  It is supportive of strong presidential power resting upon dubious constitutional claims of unilateral authority to act.  It is a constitutionalism devoid of serious respect for individual rights, supportive of the national security state, and surveillance ahead of privacy.  It is a constitutionalism not of the kind one would have expected from him, but instead one that bears more resemblance to that of George Bush than it does of the liberal Democrat some thought he was.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Minnesota Republicans and the 2014 Elections: Opportunity Lost?

These should be heady times for Minnesota Republicans.  The 2014 elections should be a great opening for them to make political inroads in Minnesota, yet for all the advantages they have, they will probably do no better in the state than retain a congressional seat that they should have held all along.
    Consider the state of 2014 elections.  It will be midterm elections with no presidential candidate on the ticket.  During presidential elections Minnesota’s voter turnout is about 77%.  In non-presidential years it drops significantly, with the majority of those who stay home being the youth and those more likely to voter for Democrats.  Republicans generally do well in off-year elections.  In 2010 state turnout dropped to about 53%.  Given that there is a US Senate and governor’s race, do not expect a drop that far; anticipate perhaps a 60% turnout.  This is still respectable compared to other states, but certainly not great compared to presidential years.  Expect to see many Democrats and swing voters (especially the young) stay home.  This is especially the case given that unlike in 2012 when the elections and marriage amendments drove voters to the polls.  Now with same-sex marriage legal, many Millennials may decide their work is done and they may get involved some other way.  On balance, this is an election with an electorate more favorable to Republicans.
    Historically second term midterm elections are also bad for the president’s party.  Few think the Democrats can take back the House–especially with so few competitive seats in existence–and with Democrats having to defend so many Senate seats and many of their strong incumbents retiring, the prospects for a GOP senate are strong.  Obama has a 50% approval rating, but the job market and economy are still tepid and Obamacare will have implementation problems.  All told, the political climate favors Republicans.
    Now consider Minnesota.  Two of the closest races in Minnesota history have their DFL incumbents up for election in 2014. While once governor Dayton rode high in the popularity polls, his approval rating is now below 50% and his disapprovals are close to that.  In theory he is vulnerable. Senator Franken, who won by 312 votes in 2008, is also up for election.  He too should be vulnerable.  And Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has declared that he is not running for election.  That creates another opportunity.  Finally, the Minnesota House of Representatives faces election next year.  Many Republicans may think that rasing taxes on the wealthy, same-sex marriage, and bills to allow for union votes with daycare workers smells of overreach, offering a rallying cry and opportunity to retake that chamber in 2014.
    Yet despite these opportunities, the GOP may not capitalize on any of them.  In the case of Dayton and Franken, the Republicans do not have a varsity candidate to run against them.  So far no household names have emerged.  Perhaps some will, but it better happen soon.  At least with the Senate race, a successful candidate may need to raise $20 million to win.  Franken has good approvals, name recognition, and money in the bank.  The clock is ticking for Republicans to find someone soon.   In terms of legislative races, perhaps only about 20 House seats are competitive.  This is enough to switch party control, but Republicans need a message, candidates, and money.
     For governor, the issue is money too, and the state Republican Party is broke and split.  It is a party torn between Ron Paul supporters, Tea Party followers, and the few remaining moderates that it has.  It lacks a common message and theme and organizationally it is not clear it can provide the resources to support both a statewide race and at the same time assist in the House races next year.  While the House GOP caucus generally supports its candidates, it needs help from the party  and it will not get much of that.  Do not count on the House caucus having too many resources to help out with the governor’s race either.
    But the more curious issue is why the empty bench?  Why are there so few if any varsity GOP candidates for governor, senate, and even Secretary of State?   First, the losses of 2012 depleted the GOP of candidates–majority legislative leaders lost power and position.  Other such as Amy Koch self-destructed.  Additionally, the party has moved far to the right while the state as a whole remains centrist.  While there are strong pockets of conservatism across the state–such as in the 6th Congressional district and in many state legislative seats–on balance Minnesota’s voter registration and party breakdown favor Democrats in a statewide election.
    This brings us then to the 6th Congressional district.  Many fellow political scientists were convinced that Bachmann was vulnerable and Graves could win.  Maybe, yet for the last three elections Democrats have gotten it wrong in the 6th.  Bachmann remained a good candidate in a district strongly favoring a Republican.  Her base would not have cared about the ethics issues and  Bachmann could have turned them into assets.  Graves had little money and could perhaps only go so far as the anti-Bachmann candidate.  Having said that, he was the “Great Democratic Hope” in that district.  With him out, probably any Republican can win.
    Tom Emmer is already in.  He has name recognition and politics that match the district.  Yet  as he showed in 2010, he is not a great campaigner and some Republicans resent that he did not win  then. He may be the Republican that Democrats have the best chance to beat–if they can find a candidate. Senator Mary Kiffmeyer has a perfect political alignment with the 6th district–Bachmann without the baggage–and in 2014 she can run without giving up her legislative seat.    Yet she could also be a candidate for Secretary of State again.  The other name mentioned is Matt Dean.  He is a decent, quiet person who could garner moderate support.  Whether he can excite the base remains to be seen.
    There is a window of opportunity for Minnesota Republicans, but it is closing quickly except perhaps for the 6th Congressional district.  The challenge is not to let the need to defend this safe seat overwhelm the other chances out there.