Minnesota went rogue on Super Tuesday.
It is the only state so far to give Sen. Marco Rubio a win in his quest to be the Republican nominee in the presidential election, and to give Donald Trump a rare distant third-place showing.
And on a night when Hillary Clinton won big, taking seven states, Minnesota embraced her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders with a whopping 62 percent of the vote, compared to Clinton’s 38 percent.
Minnesota is known for its enthusiasm about elections. The state is also known to be left-leaning, a likely reason the self-styled socialist Sanders devoted more attention to Minnesota than Clinton did.
The Star Tribune reported that the state, which had caucuses, had a huge turnout for Super Tuesday, resulting in long lines and traffic jams. In several locations, voters resorted to writing down their choice on paper when ballots ran out.
“He’s really capturing what a lot of people think is wrong with the government,” said Jacob Meltzer, 21, of his choice, Sanders, according to the Tribune.
Democratic Party leaders said that Sanders’ many visits – three since just Friday – paid off.
“Clearly the Sanders organization reached all corners of the state,” state Democratic Farmer Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin said to the Tribune.
For his part, in visits to Minnesota, Rubio had drawn comparisons between Donald Trump and the state’s former governor, Jesse Ventura, who had been a professional wrestler and actor and was blunt and colorful.
He ran as a Reform Party candidate whose views were pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and pro-gun.
Many political experts did not take his candidacy seriously, and were shocked when he won.
Ventura, who had been mayor years before becoming governor, served only one term. A self-described libertarian, Ventura had a checkered relationship with state legislators.
"There are times he just charmed you tremendously. You know, just very, very charming," said Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum Sviggum. "And in the next minute, you'll be shaking your head and saying, 'You know, I don't want anything to do with the individual.'"
Rubio told Minnesota voters that both Trump and Ventura were an embarrassment.
“What you have is a world-class con artist and sham who is preying on people’s fears and people’s anger to get people’s vote,” Rubio said about Trump in a Minnesota rally days before the Tuesday vote. “The consequences are the presidency of the United States, the future of the conservative movement, the identity of the party of Lincoln and Reagan and ultimately the future of America.”
Rubio had secured the endorsements of many top Minnesota lawmakers.
College student Martin Gorman stood in a long line, determined to vote for Rubio.
He depicted Rubio as a “unifying voice rather than tearing people apart.”
“The North Star State provided a big ray of hope to Marco’s campaign tonight,” the Tribune quoted former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a supporter of Rubio, as saying.
Cruz came in second in Minnesota, but his state campaign organizer, Brandon Lerch, said it was important to keeping his candidate competitive against Trump.
“This is about a delegate race,” Lerch said.
GOP consultant Michael McKenna said a one-state win would not help Rubio catch up to his better-performing rivals.
“The bottom line is Rubio is done as a candidate,” said McKenna, telling the Tribune that Cruz is the only one with a real shot at competing with Trump.
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