Will a Democratic candidate topple President Donald Trump this fall or will Trump and his Republican base prevail?
Which Democratic candidate has the best chance of winning?
What are some of the key political issues that should be addressed in the months ahead of the election?
These and other questions were on the minds of DFL and GOP members when they gathered for their caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
DFLers rally around rural issues
More than 100 DFLers attended Tuesday’s caucus – a turnout that pleased Douglas County DFL Chair Bonnie Bina, considering there was no presidential preference poll this year; it’s being replaced by the “Super Tuesday” primary on March 3.
“What was really cool is that we had at least one person representing 32 of the 37 precincts in the county – that’s more than 85 percent,” Bina said. “The fact that they took the time to come out is nice.”
Many of the key resolutions the DFLers talked about Tuesday were related to rural issues, such as supporting small and medium sized farms and giving farmers the support they need, Bina said.
Another top issue is providing good health care for low-income families and farmers, Bina said.
“Many farmers are struggling with depression and can’t afford health care,” she said. “It’s really tough. We’ve lost people to suicide because of depression.”
Local DFLers also want to bolster economic development and create jobs by supporting clean energy, Bina said. “We want to create a better economic base in rural areas and clean energy can provide jobs.”
Although there was no poll taken at the caucus this year, candidates Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders were drawing support. Representatives from both their campaigns attended the Douglas County DFL caucus.
One caucus-goer said he thinks Klobuchar is level-headed, willing to work across the aisle and is a moderate like he is.
A Sanders supporter said he likes Sanders' plan to provide Medicare for all.
GOP pumped about Trump
About 130 people attended the Douglas County Republican caucus at Alexandria Area High School, which County GOP Chair Jim Nelson said was an increase over the turnout just two years ago.
“I’m very pleased with the Douglas County Republican caucus night,” he said. “They were very patriotic, highly spirited, and very enthusiastic and very motivated, and the reason for that is President Trump.”
With Minnesota joining the ranks of other Super Tuesday states holding presidential primaries on March 3, early reports were that fewer people bothered to show up for caucuses. That would be a mistake, said Joel Novak of Alexandria.
"The people who come out tonight have more power than anyone who shows up to vote on Nov. 3. They only get the choice of the last two," said Novak, who is one of a handful of Republican candidates for the 7th Congressional District nomination.
Nelson said caucuses are about growth and opportunities.
“When you attend a caucus that enables you to become a delegate,” he said. Being a delegate in the county convention can lead to being one for the Congressional District 7 endorsing convention, and the state GOP convention.
“But the seed has to be planted at the caucus,” Nelson said.
Absent the presidential straw poll, the event is known for bringing issues to the forefront in the form of resolutions. However, Nelson said there were “very, very few resolutions,” and that he could not comment on them until they are voted on at the GOP county convention March 28 at the Alexandria Senior Center.
At one time, Harold and Kathy Withers of Osakis attended the DFL caucus.
"For a while, they had strong pro-life groups, but they kind of fizzled out," Kathy said. The couple now regularly attend the Republican caucuses.