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Capitol Chatter: Bills faces long, long odds

ST. PAUL – Gov. Mark Dayton told a crowd gathered to hear former President Bill Clinton that each one of them is needed to elect Democrats on Tuesday because races are so close.

Then, upon further thought, he added that U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar does not fall into that “close” category.

Indeed, polls show Klobuchar with a massive lead.

“Kurt Bills’ poll numbers show him with the second lowest support of any GOP U.S. Senate nominee since the DFL merger and third lowest since direct elections began 100 years ago,” wrote Eric Ostermeier on the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog.

Ostermeier, who specializes in digging up history and relating it to today’s politics, said the most troubling aspect of the 2012 election for Republicans may be the U.S. Senate race.

“Shortly into her tenure on Capitol Hill, it became conventional wisdom in Minnesota that Amy Klobuchar would be extremely difficult to unseat in 2012,” he wrote. “Add to that a lack of prominent Republican names running for the party’s GOP nomination this year, and the result is a candidate, Kurt Bills, who is languishing in the low 30s among likely voters in head-to-head matchups against Klobuchar.”

One fact that even surprises Democrats is that polls show the number of Minnesotans who just recognize Bills’ name has shrunk in recent months.

The big fact, however, is that Klobuchar appears to be 30 percentage points ahead, or something close to that.

“Outspent and facing an incumbent with a high approval rating, the first term state representative has been unable to move his numbers northward,” Ostermeier wrote.

Klobuchar held then-U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy to 38 percent in 2006.

The lowest Republican U.S. Senate candidate support since the inception of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party was Jerry Brekke, who collected just 25.0 percent of the vote in 1976. His opponent? The iconic Hubert Humphrey.

Just in case

The Minnesota State Canvassing Board is ready to approve Tuesday’s election returns, and as has been needed in some recent elections is prepared to deal with a recount.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a member of the board, appointed Supreme Court justices Paul H. Anderson and Christopher J. Dietzen and district court judges Edward I. Lynch and Karen J. Asphaug.

The board is to meet Nov. 27. Generally such meetings result in routine approval of returns, but it made much more news in 2008 and 2010 when it oversaw statewide recounts.

The closest statewide race this year would appear to be a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. While amendment votes are not subject to automatic recounts, if the returns are tight, one side could ask a court to order one.

Deer donations hunted

A state program wants deer hunters who don’t want the meat to donate it to the poor.

To give venison, hunters must have deer processed at a state-registered meat processing plant that takes part in the program. They can be found at, typing “venison processors” in the search box.

Only entire carcasses with the hide attached can be donated. Cut and wrapped meat will not be accepted for donation.

The program is operated by the Agriculture Department, Department of Natural Resources and food shelves.

A lot of bull

A Minnesota state senator’s bull ended the Professional Bull Riders season ranked third.

Smackdown trailed Asteroid and Bushwacker after last weekend’s PBR finals. Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, owns half interest in the bull, which a year ago was ranked fourth.

Smackdown and Rosen’s other bulls live along the Missouri River near Mandan, N.D., on Chad Berger’s Dakota Rodeo ranch.

New Website

The Minnesota Legislature returns to action on Jan. 8 and members will find a redesigned website when they arrive in St. Paul.

Several legislative offices worked together on the redesign, which among other things will make it easier to use on hand-held devices that nearly everyone carries around the Capitol.

“The number of devices and the size of devices have changed a lot over the past five years, and we wanted to make the site more user-friendly,” said Mike Schatz, systems developer for the Legislative Reference Library.

The sites, results of 18 months of work, are at, and