Oct 7, 2022 - Politics

The door wars are back: Minnesota candidates hit 1 million voter homes in battle for Capitol

Illustration of a donkey and elephant reaching for a door knocker.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Door-knocking by Minnesota political campaigns has returned in full force after last election's pandemic slowdown.

The big picture: The blitz is especially apparent in the high-stakes battle for control of the state Legislature, which could hinge on hundreds of votes in just a handful of competitive seats.

  • Candidates, campaign workers and volunteers on both sides of those races have already knocked on more than 1 million doors with less than five weeks to go, per numbers shared with Axios by the campaigns.

Why it matters: Face-to-face conversations help candidates build "a foundation of credibility that is tough to erode," longtime GOP strategist Gregg Peppin tells Axios.

  • "When the nasty mail hits, [the voter is] less likely to look at that and say 'Oh, boy," and let that influence their decision."

Yes, and: The tactic is seen as especially important after redistricting, when incumbents and challengers alike must introduce themselves to swaths of new voters.

Flashback: Most Minnesota Democrats refrained from door-to-door canvassing in 2020 amid COVID concerns.

  • Top DFLers acknowledge that the decision likely contributed to narrow losses in competitive state legislative races.

By the numbers: The Senate DFL Caucus, which is trying to flip Republicans' narrow majority in the chamber, says its campaigns have already hit 400,000 doors. A Senate GOP spokesperson said they were at around 300,000 as of last weekend, with 90% logged in targeted districts.

  • House Republicans were approaching 300,000 doors as of Thursday. The House DFL declined to share its numbers.

Zoom in: Door-knocking is generally concentrated in competitive districts.

What they're saying: "We made almost 100,000 phone calls in the 2020 cycle, but phones are just not the same as being in person," Morrison said. "There's a real hunger out there for human interaction."

  • Thomas Knecht, a Republican running for an Eden Prairie-based seat, and his supporters have knocked on more doors than any other House GOP campaign.
  • "Not only does it allow me to cut through the noise, more importantly, I get to hear directly from voters about their lives, priorities and daily struggles," he said.

What they're hearing: Democrats say abortion remains a top issue in the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • Republicans say the issue does come up, particularly in the metro, but they report hearing more about crime and pocketbook issues in recent weeks.

The bottom line: The door-knocking blitz is only going to increase as the election approaches, so voters in competitive districts should brace themselves for more political visitors.


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