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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 15 2010

Minnesota political notebook: Dayton to target DFL strongholds for general election

ST. PAUL – Mark Dayton won big in northern Minnesota Tuesday, but a primary election is far different than the general election he faces on Nov. 2.

Dayton said that even if Democratic-Farmer-Laborite voters liked one of the other candidates better, he still expects them to fall in line for him in the general election contest.

The former U.S. senator won nearly every county north of the Twin Cities area, and many to the south.

In a general election, a Democrat can be expected to dominate to the northeast, but the “L” of western and southern Minnesota comes into play. It is in that area where voters can go with either party.

Dayton said he needs to work on DFL strongholds such as Minneapolis, which went heavily for Margaret Anderson Kelliher in Tuesday’s primary. Top Democrats, including Kelliher supporters, lined up behind Dayton in a day-after-primary unity rally at the Capitol, indicating that he has little to worry about among party loyalists.

Lahammer again

When Kelliher refused to concede early Wednesday, she may not have realized she was going up against a predictor with a good track record.

In November, Gene Lahammer will have helped The Associated Press predict winners of election contests for 50 years, and his understanding of voting patterns helped the news service to accurately report that Dayton won well before the final returns were in.

Although he is retired, he still is involved on election nights.

AP called the DFL governor’s race at 12:21 a.m. Wednesday, but Kelliher did not concede for another 11 hours.

What made it so tough for Kelliher to give in was that she held pretty decent leads for most of Tuesday night. But most early returns were from Twin Cities’ area counties, with St. Louis and nearby northeastern counties coming in much later. Those were the counties that Dayton dominated.

Lahammer started his AP career in Fargo in the 1960s, where he worked more than four years before moving to AP’s Twin Cities operation.

Biden, maybe Obama

Vice President Joe Biden likely will be in Minnesota stumping and raising money for Dayton.

But Dayton said that while he invited President Barack Obama, he is not sure the party’s top politician will come.

Biden and Obama would help with fundraising, Dayton said. “You have to pay for Air Force One, so we need a fundraiser,” he joked.

But Dayton was more serious when he said he needs to raise money for a general election campaign after mostly funding his $3 million primary campaign with his own money.

Dayton said he needs to raise money before putting up his first post-primary television commercial. However, he refused to say if he has enough money to finance a significant portion of the fall campaign himself.

Sick? Get paid

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson joined the Federal Trade Commission in announcing a crackdown on insurance companies that do not cover medical bills if those insured get sick.

“High health insurance premiums and high unemployment have created a market niche for bogus health insurance companies,” Swanson said. “Many people are struggling with health insurance premiums that have more than doubled in the last decade, and many others lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs. Fake health insurance companies exploit these financial pressures by selling risky health discount plans that don’t offer financial protection when people get sick.”

Unlicensed companies are a main culprit, she said.

More than 9 percent of Minnesotans did without health insurance last year, up from 7.2 percent in 2007.

Swanson has sued some discount insurance firms, and now other federal and state officials are beginning a crackdown on those that do not pay.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.