This year's election is like the Super Bowl without the cool commercials - you don't have to have a vested interest to follow it. With all the races going on and more subplots than a New Jersey Housewives episode, it will be hard to ignore. And why would you want to?
I'll grant you that the political games played in this country are enough to make you want to move to Canada, but with so much at stake this November, it's all worth keeping a close eye on. With that said, here are 26 (or so) reasons - yep, one of those A-B-C deals - to take the time to keep track of everything political leading up to Nov. 6.
A: Amendments. We'll break these down more later, but this year, Minnesota voters will decide the fate of not one, but two key constitutional amendments. So even if you have no interest in individual district, senate or congressional races, these amendments alone provide ample soap opera-esque reasons to vote this year.
B: Barack Obama. Our leader has made plenty of noise in the last couple of months on everything from gay marriage, to immigration, to health care. Will putting his views out there on a few uber-controversial topics help or hurt him?
C: Campaigns. There will a lot of them this summer, and you will hear many things politicians know you want to hear. The question, as always, will be, will they follow through with their promises?
D: Deficit. There's a topic that's about as well received as Asian carp. The state of Minnesota will be looking at another big one in 2013 (deficit that is well, maybe the carp, too), and politicians know it. It will be interesting to see how this year's field of challengers and incumbents plan to fix it if elected.
E: Election 2012. Yes, it'll be a big one. Smart money says voter turnout this year will be as high as it's ever been.
F: Fast-forward. That's what most TV watchers wish they could do as soon as the TV political ad campaign really heats up. I already have DVR envy.
G: Gay marriage. Arguably the hottest of all the hot-button issues out there, gay marriage is a polarizing issue, and come November, voters will have their say on a major constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman in the state.
H: High drama. There's sure to be some this year. Heck, there always is on election night, especially when it's a presidential election. This year's election carries a tremendous amount of significance on a state level, too, and could radically change the way we live.
I: Incumbents. Our two most local incumbents, Sen. Gary Dahms and Rep. Chris Swedzinski, Republicans both, are each looking to return for a second term. Don't expect them to run away with sweeping victories, however, as they're part of a Republican group that has taken plenty of hits - some right below the belt - from their Democratic counterparts the last couple years.
J: Jerry Pagel. you might not know much about this District 16B candidate from New Ulm, but here's a little info: He's an Independent and his nickname is "Pike" - two reasons he makes for an intriguing candidate to follow.
K: Kruse, Al. Is this the year that affable Democrat Al Kruse of Marshall finally breaks through and gains a seat in the Minnesota Legislature? He's lost two elections in the last four years but has accepted the challenge from his DFL brethren to once again throw his hat into the ring to finally get a Democrat into office in this district. In trying to unseat Swedzinski in the new-look 16A, he might find the road a little easier than in 2008 when he was crushed by then-seasoned vet Marty Seifert.
L: Legislature: The makeup of the Minnesota Legislature did a flip-flop with Republicans gaining control of the House and Senate. This year could be huge for Democrats - if they can seize control back they can rule things at the Capitol under Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. Question is, is that too much power for one party too handle? Not if you ask them. With the way things have gone the last two years in St. Paul, we might just find out.
M: Marketing. That's essentially what all the candidates will be doing for the next four months - and the product they'll be marketing is themselves. That's the game within the game that makes elections so interesting - and, by the end of October, tiring.
N: National conventions. The Republicans have theirs from Aug. 27-30 in Florida, while the Dems follow up a week later in North Carolina.
O: Obamacare. It will still be fresh in our minds come November, with Obama's rival, Mitt Romney, vowing to repeal it if elected. Will Romney's outspoken stance against it give him enough votes to unseat the president? Or will it work against him? Hmmm.
P: Peterson, Collin. Is this the year the dominating DFLer gets upended in District 7? Lee Byberg gave him a run for his money two years ago but still lost by 18 percentage points. This is one Scandinavian showdown worth keeping an eye on.
Q: Quiet. That'll be the Dayton camp. All he has to do this year is sit back and keep his fingers crossed that he doesn't have to deal with a GOP-controlled House and Senate for another two years.
R: Redistricting. Just another spice from the spice rack that adds a bit of extra flavor to this year's election in Minnesota. Redistricting only happens once a decade, and it's always interesting to see how it affects local races. There's not a candidate out there who won't spend some time this summer wooing new constituents.
S: Shutdown. Hate to bring it up, but don't think the majority of voters have forgotten about the embarrassing fiasco that put a halt to important services and forced state parks to put the gates down during an extended 4th of July holiday weekend in 2011.
T: Two hundred and one. That's the total number of legislative seats in Minnesota. All are up for grabs.
U: Upsets. There are sure to be some this year - maybe not Oberstar-like upsets, but upsets nonetheless.
V: Voter ID. The second hottest hot-button issue out there. This measure would require voters in Minnesota show a valid photo ID. Five states already have tough voter ID requirements written into their laws, and while supporters say we need it to ensure voter fraud is totally eliminated, opponents say we don't need to waste money on it.
W: Wolf Blitzer. Can't wait to hear his voice again. Not a huge CNN fan, but he's aces on Election Night.
X, Y, Z: (Full disclosure): Everything I came up with for these three letters was a stretch, even for me. Plus, if the previous 23 nuggets didn't give you enough incentive to keep an eye on this year's election, nothing will. What else is there to follow in November? Football?